September 24, 2023

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Israel sees south Lebanon airport as Iran-backed springboard for attacks

JERUSALEM/BEIRUT (Reuters) – Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant accused Iran on Monday of setting up an airport in southern Lebanon to enable attacks against Israel.

Israel is troubled by arch-foe Iran’s nuclear programme, missile build-up and support for regional guerrillas. The most powerful of the latter, Lebanese Hezbollah, fought a war with Israel in 2006 and tensions across the border are rising anew.

In televised remarks to an international security conference hosted by Reichman University, Gallant showed aerial images of what he described as an airport built by Iran with a view to pursuing “terrorist objectives” against Israel.

He did not elaborate on these, but said the site could accommodate mid-sized aircraft. The location he gave was near the Lebanese village of Birket Jabbour and city of Jezzin, some 20 km (12.4 miles) north of the Israeli border town of Metulla.

A non-Israeli source with knowledge of the site said it could accommodate large drones – some of them weaponised – built off of Iranian blueprints. The source said drones launched from the site could be used for both internal and external operational activities – but added that the nature and direction of the runway suggested the former were more likely.

Hezbollah has been investing heavily in drone technology, the source said.

Neither Hezbollah nor Iranian officials offered an immediate response to Gallant’s remarks.

(Writing by Dan Williams and Maya Gebeily; Editing by Peter Graff)

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