Foreign Diplomats, Journalists Tour Beirut Airport After Weapons Claim

Chris Menahan
Jun. 24, 2024

Lebanese officials hosted foreign diplomats and journalists for a tour of the Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport on Monday in an effort to counter claims from The Telegraph that Hezbollah was storing "huge quantities of Iranian weapons, missiles, and explosives" inside the facility.

The Telegraph's report, which had no named author, was widely criticized for citing exclusively anonymous sources for such explosive claims. The Air Transport Union in Lebanon denied that weapons were being stored in the airport and derided the report as an "incitement [for Israel] to kill us."

From The Cradle, "Foreign officials tour Beirut airport after 'ridiculous' Hezbollah weapons claim":
Diplomatic and media delegations toured Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport on 24 June, one day after UK newspaper The Telegraph released a report claiming that Hezbollah had hidden weapons inside the facility.

Lebanon's Information Minister Ziad al-Makari, Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib, Tourism Minister Walid Nassar, and other officials attended the airport tour. Several ambassadors and media correspondents, including one from The Cradle, were also present.

They were shown the main cargo centers, a site storing imported goods, and several locations in the vicinity of the airport.

"The British Department of Transport is an official body concerned with transport. It visited Beirut Airport six months ago and viewed all its corners. It would have been more effective for this newspaper to rely on the Authority as a source in its article and not to unknown people and unknown parties," Lebanese Transport Minister Ali Hamieh said during a press conference after the tour.

He also reiterated what he said a day earlier, on Sunday, about consultations being held with Lebanon's prime minister and legal teams to file a lawsuit against The Telegraph, adding: "What is happening is a psychological war against Lebanon... we have proven that the article is ridiculous."

The UK newspaper cited "whistleblowers" from the airport on 23 June as saying they were concerned about increasing weapons deliveries coming into the country on direct flights from Iran, claiming they had seen "unusually big boxes" and the "increased presence of high-level Hezbollah commanders."

The Telegraph quoted Lebanon's International Air Transport Association (IATA) as saying that it has been aware of Hezbollah weapons at the airport "for years" but is unable to do anything about it.

After the IATA announced that the quote was completely false, the daily edited the article, attributing the same quote to an unnamed "major international aviation body."

Commenting on the allegations, a high-ranking Lebanese security official told The Cradle on Sunday: "They spread lies to later justify any Israeli attack against Beirut airport because they want to isolate Lebanon. The enemy spreads these rumors as a kind of psychological warfare."

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