The Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement has taken journalists from local and international media outlets on a tour of a warehouse in a Beirut neighbourhood to prove Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was either lying or gravely mistaken during his address to the UN General Assembly.
Hezbollah’s media officer Muhammad Afif escorted dozens of reporters and photojournalists as they visited the site in the Jnah neighbourhood on Tuesday evening, just hours after Netanyahu made the sensational claims.
No evidence of missiles or their production were seen at the facility. The journalists, including AP and AFP photographers, also confirmed no weapons of any kind were stored there.
“The tour was organized for members of the press to visit the site and to dismiss the Israeli prime minister’s allegations of a missile depot in Beirut,” Afif told reporters.
He added, “The tour reveals that the site has nothing to do with storing weapons. It is an industrial facility belonging to a Lebanese man, and there are no missiles inside it.”
Afif declared that all of the accusations made by Israel against Hezbollah were “false and fabricated,” adding that “Netanyahu’s remarks are meant to provoke the Lebanese nation against Hezbollah and are part of a psychological war.”
He added that Hezbollah invited journalists to the alleged site due to the gravity of the situation in the aftermath of the deadly August 4 Beirut port explosion, which killed some 200 people, wounded thousands more and destroyed or severely damaged many buildings in surrounding residential neighbourhoods.
“Whoever wants to go can go now. If Hezbollah is storing missiles in this facility, then there is not enough time to remove them,” Nasrallah said shortly after Netanyahu made the accusations. “We don’t store missiles at the port or near gas facilities. We know where to store missiles.”
“We will allow media outlets to enter the facility so that the world knows that Netanyahu is lying,” he added.
Reporters quickly converged on the location, located in the Jnah neighbourhood in south western Beirut. A quick tour of the building proved that it was a factory for gas canisters.
As the journalists were touring the warehouse, Hezbollah supporters gathered outside, chanting their support for the Hezbollah chief and shouting, “We are your rockets!” LINK
— Joe Truzman (@Jtruzmah) September 29, 2020
The factory’s owner, Muhammad Rammal, told The National reporter Sunniva Rose that he was surprised by Netanyahu’s accusations, adding that the factory has been operating for five years, and that he is proud of Hezbollah’s achievements.
I just spoke to Muhammad Rammal, the owner of the iron factory that we just visited with #Hezbollah – to prove there are no weapons here.
He says that his factory has been open for the past 5 years, that he was "surprised" by Netanyahu's accusations, but is proud of #Hezbollah. pic.twitter.com/YwpXyfMo75
— Sunniva Rose (@Sunniva_Rose) September 29, 2020
Meanwhile, in Israel Defence Ministry director-general Amir Eshel spoke at a conference on Tuesday night of the challenges Israel would face in a future war with Hezbollah and the likely strategies they would employ.
He argued that it would take the Israeli military months “to truly clean out Hezbollah from its strongholds in any future conflict” and “establish order” in occupied areas.
In what he said was a best-case scenario, Israel might be able to successfully strike around 80% of Hezbollah’s estimated 150,000 rockets.
This would mean around 30,000 rockets raining down on Israel, causing a scale of physical and economic damage, as well as a much greater loss of life, than the country has experienced even during major wars.
Given this probability, Eshel concluded that while Israel must still strive for as short a war as possible, the resiliency of the civilian home front in the face of rocket attacks must be improved.
He also stated that another key trend in warfare would be growth in Israel’s use of autonomous weapons and vehicles.
Echoing Netanyahu’s now discredited claims that Hezbollah has hidden weapons in residential areas, Eshel stated that Israel would be obliged to hit civilian areas as well as Lebanon’s infrastructure in any future war.
Eshel said that all during this time [of any future conflict] the IDF would also be forced to strike civilian areas where Hezbollah’s weapons are hidden.
Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentation at the UN General Assembly Tuesday night on Hezbollah’s weapons being hidden improperly in civilian areas, he said Israel would still take a major hit to its legitimacy for expected Lebanese civilian casualties – however unintended.
To avoid this dark scenario, Eshel said that Israel needs to make multiple major changes in the way it fights wars.
He said that Israel must “understand the change” in the inability to win wars decisively “and must understand the limits of its military power.”
Qualifying these remarks, Eshel said the inability to win wars decisively is not the result of a “change in our abilities. It is not that we cannot hit hard,” noting that the IDF can still strike “very hard.”
He said using Israeli force in a way that quickly ravages and destroys Lebanon’s infrastructure is much more likely to get Hezbollah to a ceasefire than playing the old-style game of chasing its concealed guerrilla fighters.
Hezbollah, he said, is much more afraid of a long period of having to rebuild that infrastructure than it is of extended guerrilla fighting and firing rockets against the Israeli home front. LINK
Now that Netanyahu’s accusations before the General Assembly that Hezbollah is producing and storing strategic weapons in residential areas have been definitively disproven, the promotion of perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity (i.e., attacking heavily populated civilian areas) as a legitimate military strategy is especially troubling.
Israel must not be permitted to use such accusations as a pretext to destroy Lebanon’s infrastructure again. If Israel has such suspicions in future, it must demand internationally verified inspections, by independent experts that are not simply Israeli, US or other pathologically anti-Hezbollah, anti-Syria scientists for hire (recalling the now debunked OPCW claims that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons).
On the spot verification by the local and international media also appears to be the best way to dispel doubts and ongoing false claims. There appears to be a large supply of scientists and other experts who will say whatever they are told to say by their paymasters.
Moreover, in such an event, Israel must also open suspect facilities to inspection; it would be only fair to allow Hezbollah to nominate an equal number of facilities for international inspection on the Israeli side.
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