Netanyahu, in UN speech, warns of more Hezbollah peril for Beirut

PM says ‘no doubt’ other Arab, Muslim states will sign treaties.

FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises from the site of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED AZAKIR)
FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises from the site of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020
Hezbollah has a secret arms depot next to a gas company that could trigger yet another massive explosion in Beirut, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned in his speech to the UN General Assembly by video link on Tuesday.
“Here is where the next explosion could take place,” Netanyahu said, pointing to a map of the Janah neighborhood in Beirut, less than two months after a devastating blast at the Lebanese capital’s port killed 200 people and injured thousands.
The map showed a Hezbollah arms depot abutting gas canisters that belong to a gas company. A few meters away is a gas station, and another gas company and gas trucks are situated 50 m. away. These explosive risks are surrounded by civilian housing and are very close to the end of the runway of Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport.
Three Hezbollah missle manufacturing sites in Beirut are highlighted alongside the site of the Beirut Port explosion. (Photo credit: IDF)
Three Hezbollah missle manufacturing sites in Beirut are highlighted alongside the site of the Beirut Port explosion. (Photo credit: IDF)
“It’s right here. This is the gas company, and this is the missile explosive depot,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister called on the people of Janah to “act now,” and tell Hezbollah to “tear these depots down,” warning that Hezbollah and its Iranian backers deliberately put them in danger.
“If this thing explodes, it’s another tragedy,” he added. “I say to the people of Lebanon, Israel means you no harm. But Iran does.”
Netanyahu pointed out that a Hezbollah depot in Ain Qana in south Lebanon exploded several days ago.
“The international community must insist that Hezbollah stop using Lebanon and Lebanese civilians as human shields,” he stated.
Hezbollah is working on precise missiles in a number of civilian residential areas in Lebanon, including directly under apartment buildings. The terrorist organization manufactures and stores parts of those precise missiles at the Janah site.
Another site, in the Laylaki neighborhood, is under four seven-story residential buildings, home to more than 70 families and 130 m. from a church and medical center. Yet, another such site is in the Chouaifet neighborhood, under five residential buildings that are home to 50 families and 90 m. from a mosque.
Israel and the IDF have repeatedly reported similar sites that endanger Lebanese civilians to the UN and through other diplomatic channels.
In revealing the Janah site, Netanyahu sought to call once again for the Lebanese government to get involved in what is happening in its country and protect its citizens from Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah.
Immediately after Netanyahu’s speech, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, called on the Security Council to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and condemn its use of Lebanese civilians to shield its activities.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah claimed that the terrorist group’s munitions are not kept in civilian areas, despite Netanyahu’s claims to the commentary, during a speech on Tuesday on the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar TV.
Nasrallah invited the media to visit the facility that Netanyahu referred to in his UN address, “so that the world can watch the Netanyahu lie on the air.”
Simultaneously, Hezbollah media relations announced that they were arranging a media tour of the area for Tuesday night “to learn about the reality of the situation there and to uncover the false claims of the enemy Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
Nasrallah claimed that Hezbollah is not placing munitions near civilian homes. “We know very well where we should put our missiles,” added the Hezbollah leader.
Netanyahu also condemned Iran, “the greatest enemy of peace in the Middle East.”
He praised US President Donald Trump for leaving the Iran nuclear deal, which he said was flawed because it did not block Iran’s path to the bomb, only restricting its nuclear program temporarily. Iran has violated those restrictions, he pointed out.
“Because of these violations, Iran will have enough enriched uranium in a few months for two nuclear bombs. And Iran has been working on a new generation of centrifuges, it’s called the IR9, which will multiply Iran’s enrichment capability fifty-fold,” Netanyahu warned.
He recounted that Israel’s European allies promised that Iranian violations “would be met with a quick and severe response,” but the UN “Security Council has done, well, absolutely nothing.”
“The Security Council also still refuses to see what was obvious to anyone who understands anything about the Middle East. Rather than curb Iran’s aggression, the nuclear deal fed and funded it... Exactly as I warned five years ago, we who live in the Middle East are suffering the consequences of that irresponsible deal,” he stated.
Netanyahu commended Trump for reinstating sanctions on Iran and ordering the strike on Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.
“Both Arabs and Israelis are together urging tough action on Iran. And when Arabs and Israelis agree, others should pay attention,” he added.
Netanyahu opened his remarks with “two pieces of good news,” in the form of the two peace agreements Israel signed with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
“I also have no doubt that more Arab and Muslim countries will be joining the circle of peace, soon, very soon,” he said.
These agreements highlight “the failed strategies of the past,” Netanyahu said.
“For far too long, the Palestinians effectively wielded a veto on peace between Israel and the broader Arab world,” he lamented.
Progress in the region was “held hostage to completely unrealistic Palestinian demands… [that] are complete non-starters for any responsible Israeli government,” like an Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 lines, outsourcing Israel’s security, ethnic cleansing of tens of thousands of Jews from Judea and Samaria, or the absorption of millions of Palestinians descended from refugees of the 1948 war.
Netanyahu criticized the international community’s attempt to appease the Palestinians and behave as though their demands were realistic, strengthening an illusion.
Trump, however, chose “a path anchored in reality,” the prime minister said, including recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, as well as a peace plan addressing Israel’s security needs while giving the Palestinians “a dignified realistic path forward if they make peace with Israel” – meaning a demilitarized state in 70% of the West Bank and Gaza.
Netanyahu expressed hope that Palestinian leaders will seek to join “the expanding circle of peace” between Israel and Arab states.
“When that happens, Israel will be ready,” he said. “I’d be willing to negotiate on the basis of the Trump plan to end our conflict with the Palestinians once and for all.”
Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.