Israel on Monday accused Iran of building an airport in southern Lebanon close to the Israeli border, which Defense Minister Yoav Gallant believes will likely be used as a springboard for potential terror assaults.
Gallant offered photos of the airport throughout a convention at Reichman University, saying it bore the fingerprints of Iran and Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist group backed by Tehran. The airport is about 12 miles from the Israeli border.
“In the pictures, you can see the Iranian flag flying over the runways, from which the ayatollah regime plans to operate against the citizens of Israel,” Gallant stated, per The Times of Israel. “In other words: the land is Lebanese, the control is Iranian, and the target is Israel.”
Gallant didn’t elaborate on Iran’s potential goals however stated the positioning might accommodate a mid-sized plane.
Gallant’s remarks got here on the identical day Congress was notified of a deal struck between the Biden administration and Iran, which the U.S. classifies as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The deal noticed each side swapping prisoners and the U.S. unfreezing $6 billion in Iranian funds. The National Security Council stated Secretary of State Antony Blinken took steps to make sure that these funds “could move from one restricted account to another and remain restricted to humanitarian trade.”
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi instructed NBC on Tuesday that Iran will use the cash however it sees fit.
“This money belongs to the Iranian people, the Iranian government, so the Islamic Republic of Iran will decide what to do with this money,” Raisi stated, with out elaborating on what precisely the funds willd be used for.
“Humanitarian means whatever the Iranian people need, so this money will be budgeted for those needs and the needs of the Iranian people will be decided and determined by the Iranian government,” he stated.
Pressed Wednesday on why the $6 billion was needed on high of a prisoner swap, National Security Council strategic communications coordinator John Kirby stated: “This is the deal that we were able to strike.”
A day after Congress was notified of the deal, the U.S. sanctioned a number of Hezbollah operatives working in South America – together with a Lebanese man suspected of being concerned in terrorist assaults in Argentina within the Nineteen Nineties.
Hezbollah is designated a “foreign terrorist organization,” and Washington additionally claims that the group has been concerned in drug trafficking in Latin America to generate income.
Amer Mohamed Akil Rada, in accordance with the U.S. Treasury, spent over a decade in South America earlier than relocating to Lebanon. During his time there, he allegedly ran a charcoal exporting enterprise from Colombia to Lebanon and used “80 percent of the proceeds of his commercial enterprise to benefit Hezbollah.”
Rada’s brother, Samer, was additionally sanctioned and accused of being concerned in numerous drug trafficking and cash laundering operations throughout Latin America. According to the Treasury, he was beforehand based mostly in Belize however fled as a result of a drug-related case and was concerned in smuggling greater than 1,100 kilos of cocaine price $15 million hidden in fruit shipments seized in El Salvador.
The U.S. additionally sanctioned Rada’s son, recognized as Mehdi Akil Helbawi, and his Colombia-based enterprise Zanga S.A.S., the coal exporting firm that officers say his father used to fund Hezbollah.
The Treasury additionally slapped sanctions on Lebanon-based firm Black Diamond SARL and proprietor Ali Ismail Ajrouch. The firm reportedly transferred some $40,000 to the Colombia-based coal firm.