What happened: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used his address the UN General Assembly yesterday to send a message to the Lebanese people, “Israel means you no harm, but Iran does. Iran and Hezbollah have deliberately put you and your families in grave danger”.
- Netanyahu revealed that Hezbollah has built a secret weapons storage facility in the Beirut neighbourhood of Janah. Showing the coordinates on a map, Netanyahu said: “It’s right next to the international airport … adjacent, a metre away, from a gas company … and it’s embedded in civilian housing.” He added: “I say to the people of Janah, you’ve got to act now. You’ve got to protest this. Because if this thing explodes, it’s another tragedy. Iran and Hezbollah have deliberately put you and your families in grave danger. And what you should make clear is that what they have done is unacceptable. You should tell them, tear these depots down.”
- He also appealed to “the international community must insist that Hezbollah stop using Lebanon and Lebanese civilians as human shields”.
- Relating to Iran’s nuclear programme, Netanyahu said, “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. There is no question that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.” Netanyahu also criticised his European allies for acting against Iranian violations of the JCPOA nuclear accord, saying: “In the run-up to the nuclear deal, Israel was told — especially by our European friends — that any Iranian violation would be met with a quick and severe response. But in the face of Iran’s brazen violations, in the face of the irrefutable evidence of the nuclear archive, the Security Council has done, absolutely nothing. Rather than curb Iran’s aggression, the nuclear deal fed and funded it.”
- Highlighting the regional consensus of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear material and technology, Netanyahu said, “Both Arabs and Israelis are together urging tough action on Iran. And when Arabs and Israelis agree, others should pay attention.”
- Netanyahu also spoke of the historic peace agreements signed with the UAE and Bahrain, saying they “will bring our peoples the blessings of peace and the enormous benefits that come with more trade, more investment, more commerce, transportation, tourism, increased cooperation in so many other areas.” He also argued that the agreements “will make peace between Israelis and Palestinians more likely”.
Context: Netanyahu’s focus on Hezbollah’s weapons storage facility comes after an explosion last week in the village of Ain Qana, south Lebanon, which is believed to have emanated from another secret Hezbollah weapons depot.
- Following Netanyahu’s speech to the UNGA, the IDF revealed additional Hezbollah sites in Beirut used to manufacture precision guided missiles (PGMs). According to the IDF spokesperson’s office, “An underground PGM manufacturing site located in the Laylaki neighbourhood. The site is located underneath a seven-story residential building, home to over 70 families.” The IDF added that “a medical centre and a church are located approximately 130 meters from the site”.
- The Chouaifet neighbourhood has another PGM manufacturing site, “underneath a five-story residential building, home to approximately 50 families. There is a mosque located approximately 90 metres north of the site”.
- In July, the Alma Research and Education Centre released a report which claimed that there are 28 sites across Beirut that Hezbollah uses for the production and storage of medium-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, such as the Iranian Fateh-110 and its Syrian equivalent, the M-600.
- In February 2019 the UK government proscribed Hezbollah, in its entirety, as a terrorist organisation.
Looking ahead: The IDF confirmed that they are “monitoring these sites using advanced means and are very knowledgeable in regards to the PGM project. They will continue to extensively operate against it with various methods and tools.”
- On Iran, Netanyahu called upon all members of the Security Council, to stand against Iran’s aggression. There is expected to be continued pressure ahead of 18 October when the UN embargo on conventional weapons sales to Iran is due to expire.
- Relating to further normalisation agreements, Netanyahu told the UNGA: “I also have no doubt that more Arab and Muslim countries will be joining the circle of peace, soon, very soon.”