Foreign Diplomats Tour Beirut Airport after Weapons Claims

An exterior view of Rafik Hariri international airport during a tour organized by the Lebanese Ministry of Public Works and Transport at Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon, 24 June 2024. (EPA)
An exterior view of Rafik Hariri international airport during a tour organized by the Lebanese Ministry of Public Works and Transport at Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon, 24 June 2024. (EPA)
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Foreign Diplomats Tour Beirut Airport after Weapons Claims

An exterior view of Rafik Hariri international airport during a tour organized by the Lebanese Ministry of Public Works and Transport at Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon, 24 June 2024. (EPA)
An exterior view of Rafik Hariri international airport during a tour organized by the Lebanese Ministry of Public Works and Transport at Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon, 24 June 2024. (EPA)

Senior Lebanese officials on Monday defended procedures at Beirut airport during a tour for journalists and diplomats, a day after a British daily alleged Hezbollah was storing weapons at the facility.

The accusations came during escalating exchanges of fire and bellicose rhetoric between Lebanon's Hezbollah movement and Israeli forces, which have engaged in near-daily fire since war in Gaza began.

Hezbollah has been acting in support of its Palestinian ally Hamas since the armed group's October 7 attack on Israel that sparked the Gaza war.

On Sunday, British daily The Telegraph reported that Hezbollah was storing missiles and rockets at Beirut airport, where "whistleblowers" had reported the arrival of "unusually big boxes" from Iran.

Hezbollah has not made any official comment.

"The airport adheres to international standards," said caretaker Transport Minister Ali Hamieh, who led the visit together with Lebanon's ministers for foreign affairs, tourism and information.

Representatives from foreign missions including Egypt, Germany and the European Union delegation joined the tour of the airport's warehouse facilities.

Hamieh on Sunday held a press conference to reject The Telegraph report as false and "to say that there are no weapons entering or leaving Beirut." He invited ambassadors and reporters for the tour.

At the airport, Hamieh described The Telegraph report as part of "psychological war" on Lebanon and said it was a "distortion of the reputation" of Lebanon's only international airport.

The tour "included an import and export center... that accounts for 20 percent of the import traffic and is concerned with services for Iranian planes which were the subject of The Telegraph report", Hamieh said.

Another warehouse accounted for the remaining 80 percent of imports and exports, he told a press conference.

- 'Lies' -

Israel has for years accused Hezbollah of keeping weapons in installations throughout Lebanon, including near Beirut airport, an accusation Hezbollah has denied.

Israel bombed Beirut airport when it last went to war with Hezbollah in 2006.

The airport's manager, Fadi El-Hassan, said all aircraft arriving at the facility, including Iranian planes, "are subject to the same customs procedures".

Egyptian ambassador Alaa Moussa said that while diplomats were not responsible for inspecting the airport for prohibited items, "our presence (at the tour) is a message of support" to Lebanon and "a message to all parties that what is needed... is calm".

More than eight months of cross-border fire between Hezbollah and Israeli forces have left at least 481 people dead in Lebanon, mostly fighters, but also including 94 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

Israeli authorities say at least 15 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed in the country's north.

Housewife Rola Qassem, aged around 50, who had just arrived from Ivory Coast to spend summer in south Lebanon with her family, said she didn't believe the reports of weapons being stored at the airport.

"It's all lies so that people are afraid to go to Lebanon, to stop tourism," she told AFP.



Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
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Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Sudan's Rapid Support Forces agreed with the United Nations on some steps to ease aid delivery in areas under its control, a member of the RSF told Reuters on Thursday.

The Sudanese army has not reached any understandings on aid delivers with the RSF, he added. It is unclear if these steps could be implemented without the army's participation.

Meanwhile, a key supply route into Sudan's Darfur region, deemed at risk of famine by a global monitor, has been cut off due to heavy rains, a World Food Program official told Reuters on Thursday.
The UN agency has described Sudan as the world's biggest hunger crisis, with the western Darfur region most at risk as Sudan's 15-month civil war that has displaced millions and sparked ethnic violence grinds on.
WFP's Country Director Eddie Rowe said thousands of tons of aid are stranded at the Tina crossing on the Chad border, prompting the body to reopen talks with the army-aligned government to open an alternative, all-weather crossing further south called Adre.
"You have these huge rivers. As I speak now, our convoy, which is supposed to move over 2000 metric tons is stranded," he told Reuters from Port Sudan. Asked on the status of the talks that resumed this week, he said: "It's 50/50.”
WFP is now seeking clearances to move a large 70-truck convoy via a little-used, over 1000 kilometer route from Port Sudan to Darfur which Rowe said will involve crossing the battle lines of both the Sudan Armed Forces, the Rapid Support Forces and various militias.
He added that this mostly desert route has worked in the past but outside of the rainy season and that the last journey took weeks and was "fraught with a lot of challenges.”
In a separate interview, Mona Rishmawi, a member of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Sudan, told Reuters that she had met Darfur refugees in Chad who told her stories of escaping with virtually no water and eating grass along the route. "There's no doubt that people are starving," she said.