Israeli intel fears Hezbollah will actually be strengthened post-blast

According to Makor Rishon, “Intelligence sources estimate that the status of Hezbollah Chairman Hassan Nasrallah is still strong, despite the protests in the street.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel is concerned that Iran may be taking advantage of Tuesday’s explosion in Beirut to fly in military equipment for Hezbollah masquerading as humanitarian assistance, Makor Rishon reported Friday.

The intelligence services suspect that the planes from Tehran may contain precision-guided missile components to make its client’s missiles vastly more deadly.

In a Friday report in The Jerusalem Post, Seth Frantzman wrote that three large 747s sent by the Islamic Republic have already landed in Beirut, yet Iranian media “has been silent on what the planes brought.” Since countries are usually quick to trumpet their altruistic gestures, this is in itself suspicious, he wrote.

He added that some of the specific cargo planes used have been allegedly involved in arms running to Syria in the past, and their airlines have been sanctioned by the United States as a result.

Hezbollah is currently on the defensive in Lebanon, as one of the theories regarding the detonation of some 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate stored insecurely at the port is that it belonged to the terror organization. When thousands of demonstrators poured into Beirut streets over the weekend and demanded that heads roll in the government for its responsibility for the tragedy, Nasrallah was one of those pictured with a noose around his neck.

According to Makor Rishon on Friday, “Intelligence sources estimate that the status of Hezbollah Chairman Hassan Nasrallah is still strong, despite the protests in the street. His influence on the government is complete. In Israel, they even estimate that Lebanese street uprisings against the ruling government will only strengthen Nasrallah’s position. This is the paradox, because the widespread feeling of the Lebanese public is that the government chooses to focus on the interests of Hezbollah and not those of its citizens — in spite of the civil protests, according to the estimation, the terror group will be strengthened as the government is weakened.”

Nasrallah strenuously denied on Friday that his Iran-backed group had anything to do with the blast at the port.

“We have no rockets or explosives there, nor has there been in the past. We have nothing there: no missiles, no ammunition, no weapons, no ammonium nitrate, not even a rifle,” he said.

The Jerusalem Post reported Friday that Hezbollah has a dedicated terminal in the port where it receives weaponry from Iran that it stores there before disbursing the military supplies to its operatives across the country. The ammonium nitrate that exploded is a dual-use commodity, as it is a common ingredient in fertilizer as well as being highly flammable and used in bombs. It had allegedly been sitting in a warehouse at the port for the last six years.

Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Gilead, executive director of the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) at Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, told Makor Rishon Friday that he believes the hangar that contained the explosive material did belong to the Iran-backed organization.

“They’ll understand at the end in Lebanon that this was a Hezbollah site,” Gilead said.

He added that Hezbollah is also willing to endanger Lebanon in its conflict with Israel, and that no one in the country could get rid of the group.

“Anyone who thinks that Lebanon can be disconnected from this terrorist organization doesn’t understand that there is no such thing as a country called Lebanon. It’s a country on paper, and it’s not functioning,” he said.

Similarly, Dr. Mordechai Kedar, an Israeli analyst at of the BESA Center, said, “I believe that explosives, ammunition, and missile fuel (which are highly volatile and flammable substances) were stored by Hezbollah in this warehouse after being shipped from Iran.”