Nothing suspicious about US military flights, Lebanon army says
A reported increase in US and other foreign military flights to airbases in Lebanon is not a cause of concern, the Lebanese army has said, following fears of a potential escalation in border clashes between Hezbollah and Israel.
The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) said that the movement of military aircraft to the Hamat airbase, in northern Lebanon, was a routine procedure to supply the military with weapons.
It comes amid tensions caused by Israel's brutal assault on Gaza, which analysts believe could see the US and Iran dragged into a regional confrontation.
An increase in Lebanese Air Force training flights has also been linked by some to the border clashes.
Translation: What do these planes unload at Hamat Airport and for whom?
The army confirmed to Al-Akhbar newspaper on Monday that any military aircraft seeking to land at Lebanese airbases must obtain permission from the Lebanese Air Command, which will know in advance the plane's cargo.
Al-Akhbar reported that 32 US and foreign military planes had landed in Beirut and Hamat between 8 October and 10 November, coinciding with the start of Israel's offensive on Gaza and fierce border clashes on the Lebanese-Israeli frontier.
A LAF spokeswoman played down rumours circulating on social media of suspicious military aircraft activity but she did acknowledge certain measures were being taken over due to security concerns.
"American planes always land and transport [military] aid to the army. The subject has been exaggerated for reasons we all know," she told The New Arab. These reasons, she said, were related to the cross-border fighting in southern Lebanon.
She noted an increase in the number of flights to the Hamat airbase due to military training shifting from Rayak and Beirut, in case fighting between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah escalates.
"Precautionary measures are being taken in case of any escalation. There is no information that anything is going to happen, it’s just precautionary," she told TNA.
The New Arab reached out to the US Central Command and NATO but received no response at time of writing.
Lebanon's biggest military donor is the US, and the Hamat airbase has been used for joint military exercises between the LAF and other militaries.
Lebanon’s national carrier Middle East Airlines moved some of its fleet out of Beirut shortly after the violence erupted in October, and many airlines cancelled flights for weeks at a time.
Hezbollah and Israel have traded fire since 8 October, a day after Israel began indiscriminately bombing the Gaza Strip following Hamas' surprise attack on Israel.
Dozens of Hezbollah fighters and at least 14 Lebanese civilians have been killed in Israeli strikes, among them a journalist. Several Israeli soldiers have also reportedly been killed or wounded in the fighting.
Shortly after the fighting erupted in the border region, the US and other embassies called on their citizens to leave Lebanon.
The US has deployed warships and thousands of troops to the eastern Mediterranean since the war on Gaza started. This was widely seen as a message to Iran and Hezbollah not to open a new front against Israel.