An American research institute has revealed that the Iranian-backed
Hezbollah terrorist group uses civilians as human shields for its military
installations and weapons facilities in Lebanon. A number of these sites are
located in the heart of Beirut’s urban areas.
In a joint study by Matthew Levitt, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Reinhard Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, and Hanin Ghaddar, a Friedman Institute visiting fellow, it was confirmed that several intelligence reports indicate Hezbollah is using Lebanese civilians as human shields at weapons production facilities.
According to Israeli reports, Hezbollah, in cooperation with Iran, plans to convert conventional missiles into sophisticated, precision missiles at secret facilities located in the heart of urban areas near mosques, homes, schools and the international airport, where the terrorist group has “a network of underground tunnels beneath civilian homes and structures to allow its fighters to move freely between posts."
The report added that in July 2017, Israeli intelligence spotted locations in the Ouzai neighborhood of Beirut showing that Hezbollah had built a missile factory and a weapons storehouse, with one of the buildings located only 110 meters from two mosques. There is also intelligence that Hezbollah is already building four other factories throughout Lebanon.
The report noted that during Lebanon’s relatively long period of calm from 2006 to 2018, many Shiites became interested in the future as opposed to perpetual war. More recently, new businesses have been deployed in Shiite strongholds, such as Beirut's southern suburbs. Modern hotels, restaurants and cafes have been opened in each major town with support from Shiite investors both inside and outside the country. This entrepreneurial mentality continued despite the war in neighboring Syria, while the national economy also benefited greatly from the burgeoning exploration of Mediterranean energy sources.
Hezbollah knows that instigating another conflict with Israel could hinder such developments. Moreover, if war breaks out, the Lebanese know that any funding for reconstruction they would receive from Gulf Arab states would be much lower than what they received after the previous war due to Hezbollah's external positions.
Improvements in Hezbollah's military capabilities could make a new conflict more destructive and the reconstruction process more difficult. Now, Shiites in Lebanon feel that they have a lot to lose, so they are expected to be less tolerant of officials who talk about entering into a war with Israel.
The report pointed out that exposing Hezbollah's approach to the establishment of military sites in urban areas could deepen the differences within the party base and make its leaders think twice about the idea of producing weapons in Lebanon’s populated areas. Civilians living near these sites are more concerned about these installations being bombed at some point, which could destroy their homes and kill loved ones in the area during operations.
“The Lebanese government is unlikely to do anything about Hezbollah's domestic weapons production,” the report said, considering “Beirut has repeatedly proved willing to cover it up.” This is even truer following Lebanon’s May elections, which have increased the influence of Iran and Hezbollah over the country’s security and military decisions.
Iran's support for Hezbollah's missile development is a direct violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war in Lebanon and stipulated “no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government.”
Finally, the report called on the Security Council and the international community to “consider strengthening and enforcing Resolution 1701,” including giving international oversight of Beirut’s airport.