Tehran-Beirut cargo flight sparks fears of Iran arming Hezbollah
ISRAELI and US officials suspect Fars Air Qeshm, a civilian airline, are bringing military equipment to Lebanon to arm Hezbollah insurgents, reports Jerusalem's Times of Israel
ISRAELI and US officials suspect Fars Air Qeshm, a civilian airline, are bringing military equipment to Lebanon to arm Hezbollah insurgents, reports Jerusalem's Times of Israel.
An Iranian cargo plane allegedly transporting advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah insurgents was spotted flying directly from Tehran to Beirut, hours before Israel conducted airstrikes on pro-Iranian targets in Syria.
Israeli and American security officials have long claimed that Iran has been supplying Lebanon's Hezbollah with advanced munitions by shipping them through civilian airlines, including the one that flew into Lebanon.
But cargo planes typically unload their materiel in Syria or stop there enroute to Beirut, rather than flying directly into Lebanon, where Hezbollah is based.
According to publicly available flight data, Fars Air Qeshm flight number QFZ-9964 left Tehran, flew over Iraq, cut northwest into Syria and then landed in Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport some two hours later.
Later, the Boeing 747 jet flew to Doha in Qatar before returning to Tehran.Iran's Fars Air Qeshm flight number QFZ-9964 travelled directly from Tehran to Beirut on November 29.
The Israel Defense Forces indicated that the plane had been carrying weapons into Beirut.
Without specifically mentioning the flight, the army's Arabic-language spokesman LtCol Avichay Adraee tweeted that Lebanon should stop allowing Iranian planes to bring war materiel into the country, along with a black-and-white satellite photograph of Rafik Hariri International Airport.
US special representative for Iran Brian Hook said that Washington has 'evidence that Iran is helping Hezbollah build missile production facilities' in Lebanon, without elaborating.
Mr Hook accused Iran of exporting missiles to Afghanistan and Yemen, in violation of UN arms bans, including at least one with Persian writing on it.
'The conspicuous Farsi markings is Iran's way of saying they don't mind being caught violating UN arms restrictions,' he said.
Mr Hook called for increased world pressure on Iran and told journalists at a briefing that the intercepted Iranian weapons presented 'irrefutable evidence' that Iran's destabilising activity in the region 'is a problem that's not getting better, it's getting worse.'