This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows an airfield in southern Lebanon that Israel alleges is an Iranian-built Hezbollah base on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. AP
Speaking at a high-profile security conference hosted by Reichman University near Tel Aviv, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant claimed Iran has been building a runway that slices through forested mountains just 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Israel’s northern border.
Gallant displayed satellite photographs that he said showed the site, where the Iranian national flag and the flag of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group could be seen.
Gallant alleged that Iran “is planning to act against the citizens of Israel,” using the runway as a base. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Hezbollah declined to comment on Israeli accusations. The defense minister did not specify when the satellite photos were taken.
The location he gave was near the hilly Lebanese city of Jezzin, across the border from the Israeli town of Metulla. Hezbollah earlier this year invited journalists to watch a military exercise in a nearby town in southern Lebanon.
Satellite images from Planet Labs PBC obtained by The Associated Press from July 28 showed work on a 1.2 kilometer (3,937-foot) runway with hangars constructed on a tarmac just east of the runway. Satellite images from January showed the runway largely unpaved. Israel has said in recent years that it shot down Hezbollah or Iranian-linked drones launched from Lebanon and Syria.
Israel and Hezbollah, the Shia group that controls much of southern Lebanon, fought a war in 2006. The border has remained tense but largely quiet since then, with both sides wary of another major confrontation.