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Lebanon Denies Israel's Hezbollah Airport Missiles Claim

A plane taking off at Beirut International Airport. File photo
Beirut, Oct 1, 2018 (AFP) -

Lebanon's foreign minister gathered ambassadors Monday near Beirut international airport in a bid to disprove Israeli accusations that the Hezbollah movement had secret missile facilities there.

"Today Lebanon is raising (its) voice by addressing all countries of the world... to refute Israel's allegations," Gibran Bassil said.

Bassil was speaking to 73 foreign envoys gathered for a televised briefing, in what he described as a "counter-diplomatic campaign".

The most notable absentee was the ambassador of the United States, Israel's top ally.

Bassil said the US envoy was travelling, but no deputy was sent to stand in for Elizabeth Richard, a diplomatic source told AFP.

The minister then took the diplomats and dozens of journalists on a tour of the alleged missile sites, in a bid to refute Israel's claims.

On September 27, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an address to the UN General Assembly that Hezbollah had secret missile conversion sites near Beirut airport.

He produced satellite imagery pinpointing three sites and accused the powerful Iranian-backed Shiite militia of using Beirut residents as human shields.

"So I also have a message for Hezbollah today: Israel knows, Israel also knows what you're doing. Israel knows where you're doing it. And Israel will not let you get away with it," Netanyahu said last week.

Hezbollah, whose forces control south Lebanon bordering Israel and Beirut's southern suburbs where the airport is located, has not officially reacted to the accusation.

Last month, its chief Hassan Nasrallah announced that Hezbollah had acquired "precision missiles".

On Monday, Bassil led a group of the ambassadors around a sports stadium and pool complex, one of the sites that Netanyahu had identified as a missile facility.

The delegation was accompanied by security personnel and journalists.

Bassil lashed out at Israel, which he said had "violated our land, air and marine space 1,417 times in the last eight months".

Israel was attempting "to justify another violation of UN resolutions and to justify another aggression on a sovereign country", he said.

The Jewish state has fought several conflicts against Hezbollah, the last in 2006.

The Israeli military believes Hezbollah has between 100,000 and 120,000 short-range missiles and rockets, as well as several hundred longer-range missiles.