Israel’s Netanyahu urges Beirut neighborhood to ‘act now’ over Hezbollah arms depot

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New York (Reuters) – Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday accused Lebanon’s Hezbollah of storing weapons next to a gas company in a residential neighborhood of Beirut, urging the people to “act now” by protesting against the depot.

In a video address to the United Nations General Assembly, pre-recorded due to the coronavirus pandemic, Netanyahu warned that the arms depot in the Janah neighborhood was “where the next explosion could take place” following an Aug. 4 blast at Beirut’s port, which left nearly 200 people dead.

Lebanon has been pushed to breaking point by a financial meltdown and a political vacuum following the resignation of the caretaker government over the August blast, which authorities blamed on highly explosive ammonium nitrate kept in poor storage for years.

“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,” Netanyahu said. “I say to the people of Lebanon, Israel means you no harm. But Iran does.”

“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 said.

Hezbollah’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah denied Netanyahu’s accusations and said that Netanyahu was trying to provoke the Lebanese against Hezbollah with accusations of missile sites in Beirut.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Israeli military spokesman’s office said in a statement after Netanyahu’s speech that Israel and the Israel Defense Forces had reported the site, and others “numerous times, both to the U.N. and additional diplomatic networks, as well as via various media channels.”

“The exposure of these sites today was made with the aim of calling the Lebanese government again, with the support of the international community, to intervene in the matter; and to allow Lebanese civilians to protect themselves,” it said.

A photo displayed by Netanyahu during his speech, that purportedly shows the entrance to the “missile factory,” was taken on the ground in Beirut, suggesting an Israeli intelligence asset provided it.

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