Israeli intelligence shared the new information with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who warned Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri of the secret facility on his state visit to Lebanon in March and expressed his concern about the threat the terrorist organization poses to the country.
The missile factory could include the capability of manufacturing precision-guided missiles, according to an anonymous American source quoted by the report.
“We have made it clear to the Lebanese government that Hezbollah is doing something inside Lebanon and that the danger of an escalation with Israel as a result is real,” the source said, adding that “we made sure that all the information we have in this context is also in the hands of the Lebanese government.”
Last September 27 Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu accused Hezbollah of building missile production sites in the Ouzai neighborhood of Beirut , speaking at the UN General Assembly.
The group reportedly intends these underground facilities – located in the middle of an urban area near mosques, homes, schools, and the international airport – to convert regular missiles into more accurate precision weapons.
Israel has repeatedly made clear that it cannot allow Hezbollah to produce new missile variants or upgrade its existing stockpile domestically.
Yet the group continues to pursue that very goal, placing Lebanese lives and property at tremendous risk in the process.
One of the sites, according to Netanyahu, was inside a football stadium belonging to the Lebanese terrorist group.
A second site was near Rafic Hariri International Airport and a third sits some 500 meters from the airport’s landing strip, in the heart of the Ma’aganah residential neighborhood, full of residential buildings.
Hezbollah’s effort to build accurate and precise missiles – facilitated by Iranian expertise, funding and guidance – has been targeted by Israel on numerous occasions in Syria.
In July 2017, for example, Israel released aerial photos of southern village locations where the group had built a rocket factory and arms warehouse.
One of the structures was located about 110 meters from a pair of mosques.
The IDF reported at the time that Hezbollah routinely places rocket launch sites and other firing positions in the middle of populated areas, along with “a network of underground tunnels beneath civilian homes and structures to allow its fighters to move freely between posts.”
In July 2017, the French magazine Intelligence Onlinepublished information confirming that Hezbollah was building two new domestic weapons factories: one near the northern town of Hermel to produce longer-range Fateh-110 missiles, and another between the southern coastal towns of Sidon and Tyre to produce smaller munitions.
Earlier that year, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida reported that Iran had established multiple facilities fifty meters below ground and protected them from Israeli bombardment with multiple layers of defenses, citing an unnamed deputy head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
When Netanyahu met with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow in January, the two discussed the missile facilities Hezbollah was building in Lebanon.
At the time, Netanyahu warned that the country was “becoming a factory for precision-guided missiles that threaten Israel.”
Then in May, while hosting a meeting of his foreign counterparts, Israeli Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin displayed a photo of an F-35 stealth fighter flying over Beirut in broad daylight.
The implications of this show of force were twofold: that Israel could hit targets in Beirut at will, and that there were targets in the capital it felt may need hitting.
Netanyahu made this threat explicit when he showed aerial photos of the Beirut missile sites at the UN, warning, “Israel knows what you are doing.
Israel knows where you are doing it.
And Israel will not let you get away with it.
Speaking at a counterterrorism conference in early September, former Mossad deputy chief Naftali Granot noted that Hezbollah had “recently received small numbers of GPS precision-guided systems that will help it to convert some heavy rockets into accurate missiles.”
Later that month, Israeli airstrikes in Syria reportedly targeted specialized machinery for producing precision missiles, which at the time was en route to Hezbollah.
Those strikes spurred Syrian air defense units to fire a flurry of ill-aimed missiles, mistakenly downing a Russian military plane and thereby raising the stakes of Israel’s air operations against the group’s strategic weapons.
The Lebanese government is unlikely to do anything about Hezbollah’s domestic weapons production.
On the contrary, Beirut has repeatedly proved willing to cover it up, and the last May elections only increased Hezbollah and Iran’s influence over the country’s security and military decisions.
The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is also unlikely to act given its observer mission.
Iran’s support of Hezbollah missile development directly violates UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war and mandated “no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government.
In January President Reuven Rivlin told his French counterpart that Israel could be forced to strike the Hezbollah terror group’s rocket-building operations “in the heart of Beirut,” a development he warned would drag Lebanon into a punishing regional war that neither side wants.
Rivlin made the remarks during a meeting with France’s President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace in Paris during an official visit to mark 70 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and France.
“If we are threatened from Lebanon, we will not stand by,” Rivlin told Macron, according a statement from his office.
“Hezbollah is creating facilities to produce and convert precision-guided missiles in the heart of Beirut under civilian cover and with Iranian support.”
“This threatens Israeli security and could force us to respond, dragging the region into escalation that could badly harm Lebanon.”
“Lebanon bears sovereign responsibility for all Hezbollah actions,” he said.
“France is a power with decisive influence in our region and it is vital that she understands that Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese system.
I expect France to exert whatever pressure necessary on the Lebanese government to display its sovereignty and rid itself of Iranian and Hezbollah involvement that could lead us to war.”