Lebanon’s Directorate-General of Civil Aviation Tuesday said it “completely rejects” a Fox News report claiming Hezbollah and Iran smuggled arms and components for constructing arms into Lebanon on two flights operated by Iran’s Qeshm Fars Air earlier this year.
The Fox News report alleged that on July 9, a Boeing 747 left Tehran and took an “uncharacteristic flight path,” stopping in Damascus before continuing on to Beirut, where it landed “shortly after 4 p.m. local time.” The report cited the flight-tracking smartphone app FlightRadar24 and Google Maps to support its claim.
“Western intelligence sources said the airplane carried components for manufacturing precise weapons in Iranian factories inside Lebanon,” the report continued.
“The Iranians are trying to come up with new ways and routes to smuggle weapons from Iran to its allies in the Middle East, testing and defying the West’s abilities to track them down,” Fox News added.
It made the same allegations about a second flight that departed from Tehran on Aug. 2 and landed in Beirut close to 6 p.m. the same day.
In a statement Tuesday, the DGCA said it “completely rejects the claims made by [Fox News] and requests that media outlets be careful before publishing any information about the [Beirut] airport.”
The DGCA confirmed that the Boeing 747s had traveled from Tehran to Damascus and Beirut, but said they were cargo flights that then continued on to Doha.
“The [Iranian airline] previously requested from Lebanon’s Directorate-General of Civil Aviation to land as part of its route among the airports of Tehran, Damascus, Beirut and Doha,” the statement read.
The plane that landed in Beirut on July 9, the agency’s statement said, was empty, and left for Doha the next day with cargo.
“On July 10, a plane from Beirut to Doha took off loaded with livestock after the approval of the Qatari civil aviation authorities,” the statement added.
The DGCA said the same was true for the Aug. 2 flight: The plane landed in Beirut from Tehran “empty” and took off “filled with livestock after approval from Qatari civil aviation authorities.”
Hezbollah had no comment on the report.
Accompanying the Fox News report was a photo of a Boeing 747 that could have been the same model or plane as that allegedly used to smuggle the weapons into Lebanon.
However, it is unlikely such an operation at the airport could have gone unnoticed. The plane’s size and the opening at the front of the aircraft from which large items could have been offloaded would have attracted particular attention. Any operation to remove large amounts of cargo without going through Customs and other regular procedures would also have raised suspicion.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
Copyright © 2021, The Daily Star. All rights reserved.