JAFFA, Israel – Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard have taken over Beirut’s International Airport, Lebanese and international aviation sources told Al Arabiya TV, the Saudi-owned pan-Arab television news channel.
Although the move was made primarily for domestic military ends, the station reports that Hezbollah seeks to establish a smuggling network for which it charges high fees.
Ahmed Fatfat, an anti-Hezbollah Lebanese MP, was quoted saying that Hezbollah charges at least $500 per smuggled container, and that the Shi’ite militia is creating a parallel economy inside Lebanon.
Al Arabiya quoted an airport employee saying that Hezbollah militants transport weapons and goods from the airport without sending them through customs. In addition, Iranian Revolutionary Guard soldiers operate on the premises freely, the channel claimed.
Lebanese politicians have criticized the security authorities for turning a blind eye to Hezbollah’s smuggling operations, saying that security standards may drop and international airlines suspend their flights to Beirut.
The news channel reported that retailers in Beirut are saying that commodities, mainly electronic appliances, are sold in the Dahieh district, a Hezbollah bastion, for significantly lower prices than elsewhere in the city, which could indicate the extent of the smuggling the organization is allegedly involved in.