Why did Israel bomb the Beirut Airport?
Analysts say there are two possible reasons and they are not mutually exclusive. Israel wants to keep Iranian arms from getting in and Israeli captives from being flown out.
Beirut Airport has long been key to Iran's supply of all kinds of material to Hezbollah. Iran's Revolutionary Guard has supplied Hezbollah with more than $1 billion of supplies over the past 25 years, say U.S. intelligence officials, as much as $150 million a year during tense times. The majority of it is flown in on an Iranian 747 cargo jet that unloads at Beirut Airport, where Hezbollah agents pick it up and drive it to the Bekkah valley south of the Lebanese capital. Anti-aircraft batteries, Katyusha rockets, armored vehicles, small arms, anti-tank missiles, etc. have all been sent. Beirut is the only airport in Lebanon capable of handling that 747. The initial deployment was in 1982 with planes bringing in supplies as needed. By the 1990s the flights had fallen to a quarterly routine. With Hezbollah under fire in Israel, now would be a time to resupply.
The U.S. regularly monitored the flights using the defense attache's office at the U.S. embassy in Beirut. Defense attaches would literally dart in and out of the convoys in diplomatic vehicles, snapping pictures and taking notes about the latest deliveries.
But there may be another reason as well, say U.S. officials and analysts. Israel may not want the two soldiers captured earlier in the week flown out of the region to Tehran. Israeli officials have said they have information that that is Hezbollah's plan. In fact, one analyst notes, the Israelis also bombed a small airfield near the border, again suggesting a desire to keep the soldiers nearby and out of Iranian hands.
Read more from Posts on the Mideast, Robert Windrem
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