Hizbullah: We have no Bekaa Valley drone airstrip

BEIRUT (The Daily Star): A Hezbollah MP dismissed a media report claiming that the militant group possesses an airstrip in northeast Lebanon used to land its arsenal of drones.

“The defined area does not contain any airstrip. If there was an airstrip or works to build one, all the residents of the Baalbek valley would have seen it with their own eyes,” Loyalty to Resistance bloc MP Walid Sukkarieh told Al-Jumhouriya newspaper in comments published Saturday.

The comments came after an article in Jane’s Defense Weekly said it discovered what it believed to be an airstrip near the Bekaa Valley town of Hermel built by Hezbollah to fly its drones.

It published satellite images taken from Google of the site.

“The location mentioned by the magazine, which is 10 kilometers south of Hermel and 18 kilometers west of the Lebanese-Syrian border, contains my own village, al-Fakiha,” he added, describing the area in question as an agricultural land.

The report, authored by Nicholas Blanford, had suggested Thursday that the location contained an airstrip that Hezbollah built for its drones between Feb. 27, 2013 and June 19, 2014.

It concluded the findings from an analysis of “imagery that recently became publicly available on Google Earth.”

Blanford said the area included “a single unpaved strip with a length of 670 meters and width of 20 meters,” and that the material used to build it had been excavated from a nearby quarry, which is also allegedly shown in the image.

The report ruled out the possibility of the airstrip being used to smuggle weapons from Iran and Syria by air, saying it was too short for the two countries’ transport aircraft to land on.

“An alternative explanation is that the runway was built for Iranian-made UAVs, including the Ababil-3, which has been employed over Syria by forces allied to the Syrian regime, and possibly the newer and larger Shahed-129,” it concluded.

Sukkarieh wondered what the purpose was behind the article.

“Does it want to say that Hezbollah possesses drones that it might be using…?” Okay, Hezbollah is present in Syria and fights against Israel, and it might use these drones in both countries to support its military operations.”

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