Israel is tracking an Iranian attempt to establish a weapons smuggling route to Hezbollah in Lebanon via civilian airline flights to Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport, the Tel Aviv-based Channel 12 reported on December 8.
According to the Hebrew news channel, Iran is using Meraj Airlines, which started flying a direct route between Tehran and Beirut on November 14.
In 2014, the United States imposed sanctions on Mirage Airlines for transporting weapons from Iran to Syria. Later in 2018, Washington sanctioned two people working for Dena Airways which is affiliated with Meraj Air.
Channel 12 said that Israel’s activities to thwart Iranian weapons smuggling to Hezbollah via Damascus International Airport in Syria forced Iran to work on the new direct route to Lebanon.
Israel has allegedly warned that it could carry out strikes on Rafik Hariri International Airport to thwart Iranian weapons deliveries as it has done in Damascus. However, Israeli observers warned that any attack on Lebanon will most likely lead to a fierce response from Hezbollah.
Since the end of the 2006 Lebanon War, Hezbollah has remained committed to deterring Israel by responding in kind to any attack on the country.
In the past, Israel accused Hezbollah of storing precision-guided missiles near Rafik Hariri International Airport and in other parts of Beirut. However, Tel Aviv didn’t target any of the alleged missile storage sites.
Israel’s old and new accusations that links Hezbollah to Lebanon’s infrastructure appear to be meant to generate internal pressure against the group and its backers, mainly Iran, as well as to justify attacks on these civilian targets in any future conflict.