Lebanese officials visit Beirut airport after Israel’s claims of storing arms

A group of senior Lebanese officials, alongside more than a dozen foreign diplomats, visited the Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, after The Telegraph daily published an article alleging that Iranian weapons were being stored there.

Journalists also joined the tour of the airport, where Lebanese officials defended the airport’s procedures and said that the reports of weapons storage were false.

“The airport adheres to international standards,” stated Ali Hamieh, the transport minister who led the visit.

On Sunday, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported that the Lebanese group Hezbollah was storing weapons at the Beirut airport, claiming that there was an arrival of “unusually big boxes” that came from Iran.

The paper cited airport whistleblowers.

Hamieh described the reporting as psychological warfare, adding that it was also an attempt to damage the reputation of the country’s only international airport.

The claim made by The Telegraph comes as cross-border exchanges between Hezbollah and Israel have intensified in recent weeks.

The US has already signalled to Lebanon that it would back Israel if Tel Aviv were to launch an offensive onto Lebanese territory, with the risk of a potential Israel-Lebanon war having increased since October.

Israel and Hezbollah have exchanged near-daily fire since 8 October in response to Israel launching its war on Gaza, but the conflict escalated after Israel killed Taleb Sami Abdullah, one of Hezbollah’s most senior members. In response, Hezbollah launched hundreds of drones and rockets at the occupied territories.

The hostilities have displaced tens of thousands of Lebanese and Israelis living in border areas.

Last week, the Israeli army announced that it had approved plans for an offensive in Lebanon.

The announcement came as Hezbollah broadcast footage from a surveillance drone over the northern Israeli port city of Haifa in an apparent warning to Israel against starting a war.

For years, Israel has accused Hezbollah of storing weapons in installations across Lebanon, including at airports. Hezbollah denies these allegations.

The claim from The Telegraph has also raised fears that Israel could use the claim as a pretense to attack the airport. During the 2006 war, Israel bombed Beirut’s airport.

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