Did Iran, Hezbollah build a military airport in south Lebanon as Israel claims?

Did Iran, Hezbollah build a military airport in south Lebanon as Israel claims?
Israel has accused Iran of establishing an airfield in southern Lebanon that can be used as attacks against it. Satellite images seem to reveal this airfield.
4 min read
14 September, 2023
Military drones at the Hezbollah memorial landmark in the hilltop bastion of Mleeta, built-in 2010 to commemorate Israel's withdrawal from the country, near the Lebanese southern village of Jarjouaa [Getty]

Satellite images seen by The New Arab from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) seem to confirm the construction of an airstrip in southern Lebanon, which Israel claimed earlier this week was built by Iran and Hezbollah.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant accused Iran on Monday of setting up an airport in southern Lebanon to enable attacks against Israel, adding that the site could accommodate mid-sized aircraft and drones.

He shared images of the alleged "Jabbour" airfield, adding that Hezbollah and Iranian flags fluttered along the airstrip.

The "Iranian airport," as Gallant described it, lies a mere 20 km from the Israeli border in the Jezzine district of south Lebanon, very close to the Western Beqaa district and tucked between the region’s mountains. If it's confirmed it belongs to Hezbollah, it could be in violation of UN Security Council resolution. 1701, according to experts quoted in Lebanese media.

While neither Beirut nor the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group have officially commented (Arabic) on the Israeli claims, images of the airstrip have been widely shared on social media.

The New Arab was able to examine satellite images gathered from the USGS showing the airfield’s gradual construction spanning between November last year and this month.

Google maps does not have updated aerial footage of the area, but coordinates 33.475738, 35.608286 identified a dry and empty patch of territory the airfield was supposedly built on on the service.

The location is thought to be close to Hezbollah training facilities known as Qalaat Jabbur identified in Lebanese media.

The New Arab cannot independently verify this claim nor ownership of the facility. The images are not sufficient to prove it has military uses.

Hezbollah has reportedly been investing heavily in drone technology. Tensions between the paramilitary group and Israel have boiled in recent months, with some political and military observers predicting an imminent war.

The two sides last fought a major 33-day long conflict in the summer of 2006. Border skirmishes between them and between the Israeli and Lebanese armies have also taken place.

The US is currently trying to mediate a deal between the two states to demarcate their land border, after reaching a landmark deal in October 2022 to delineate their maritime border.

Hezbollah supporters on X, formerly Twitter, have celebrated news of the airfield and considered it necessary in the balance of power with Israel, whose air force possesses large capabilities. The X hashtag "This Airport" in Arabic was trending on the social media platform.

Critics and rivals of Hezbollah who consider it an Iranian proxy slammed the militant group, its backers in Tehran, and the Lebanese government for its collusion in letting such a sizeable project take place on Lebanese soil.

Some went as far as to accuse Hezbollah of building an airfield that it will use for internal purposes, but the group’s supporters have hit back by saying it is intended for possible warfare with the Israeli enemy.

Translation: The Jabbour airport in southern Lebanon welcomes you, sponsored by Hezbollah to smuggle drugs, weapons and money laundering, to fly drones and [use as] a killing machine against to target Arabs, and transform Lebanon into a platform for regional conflict.

Lebanon remains deeply divided between those who consider Hezbollah to be resistance group against Israel, and those who see it as a counterforce to legitimate state institutions.

The small Eastern Mediterranean country has lived under a gruelling financial and economic crisis since 2019 which has battered several sectors, especially the public and energy sectors.

It now hopes to find promising amounts of offshore natural gas as companies began drilling late last month, made possible after the historic maritime deal with Israel.