Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport – under Hezbollah’s command
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Affected Countries: lebanon;
Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport is located in the southwest of the capital’s suburbs and functions as the only international airport in Lebanon for commercial and operational flights.
Hezbollah, under Iranian command, has total control over all activity in Beirut’s airport. The airport has become also a logistics hub for Iranian hostile takeover of Lebanon and its aggressive activity in the Middle East.
With Shiite officers who manage the dirty work, and high rank figures at the management, who manage the logistical shell, there is almost zero chance to weaken Hezbollah’s grip.
Altogether with the increasing domination of Hizballah in collapsing Lebanon, with its mafia behavior, and the Iranian aspirations, one should take into account not only an increase in logistics for Iranian needs, in criminal activities and for its operational terror support.
Denying the organization from its grip of the airport is a recipe for an internal war. Therefore, as part of the whole intentions to recover the country, again, an international intervene is essential.
Like in any other country, the airport is controlled officially by a governmental entity, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, which is under command of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport of Lebanon. De facto, the entity which controls the airport is Hezbollah. The office of the ministry is located at Baabda district, which is known to be dominated by Hezbollah.
It is a known fact that Hezbollah controls everything that happens in the airport (and in the marine port as well) from the security checkpoints on the road to the airport, the customs, and gathering intelligence on who enters or exits the country. All of that is backed up by Iran.
Evidence shows that Iran is smuggling weapons, money, drugs, goods and even people through commercial airline flights, and is assisted by its proxy– Hezbollah. This situation enables Hezbollah to create a parallel economy; ruin the local market from the inside and build it again to fit its and the Iranian will.
The airport functions as an Iranian base for storing weapons before they are transferred to organizations around the region. Airport workers confessed that they were witness to a large-scale smuggling of weapons and military equipment operations. All weapons and equipment were taken from Iranian planes and moved directly to Hezbollah’s vehicles without any security procedures. Unit 8000 of Hezbollah operates this platform at the airport, working together with Quds force. The unit installed cameras around the airport, including in the control room and VIP room. This monitoring system is separate from the airport’s security cameras system, and therefore the unit Ables to monitor everything that happens at the airport in real time.
In June 2018, the Lebanese embassy in Teheran released a statement announcing that Iranian passports will not be stamped at the Beirut airport. Qassem Soleimani commented at the time: “Lebanon is now a resistance state”. This situation allows Iranian IRGC and Quds force operatives who arrive to Lebanon to transit to several countries in the region without detection, especially to Syria.
Official papers that were published, expose the way that the Lebanese government basically relinquished the airport’s control to Hezbollah. Specific intelligence that made its way to the high ranks of the security units of the airport was not known and not shared with the Lebanese intelligence service and the army at the airport. It means that this intelligence is given by the real authority of the airport, Hezbollah, which gives orders to official key figures in the airport. One of the papers warns that even when hostile activity takes place at the main terminal, it is not shared with the other intelligence services or the army at the airport. The papers are stamped by top ranking figures at the airport.
Another reason for the dominant control of Hezbollah at the airport, is due to the Parliament Member and Director of Shiite Amal movement, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, Nabih Berri. Years ago, he arranged jobs to Shiite officers at the airport’s security. Many of them are still in position today. Hezbollah receives a lot of help from inside the airport security squad, from its own Shiite people. This is something which is almost impossible to prevent. A former Head of Investigations at the airport’s security, Brigadier General Ali Noureddine, Shiite officer, was dismissed from his position last year. The complaint was that he committed several violations which were never published, (which is in high probability true), but the rumors hold that because of American pressure to dismiss Shiite high rank officers from sensitive positions at the airport’s security, so it will not benefit Hezbollah anymore. Also, he is the son in law of Nabih Berri.
Fadi al Hassan – President of Beirut’s airport
Promoted to this position in 2015 by Former Minister of Public Works and Transport, Ghazi Zaiter. He publicly condemns any objection to Hezbollah’s control at the airport, although as will be shown, he is cooperating with its operatives.
Brigadier General George Doumit – Head of Beirut airport’s security service
In this position at least since 2015, working under the Interior Ministry. He also publicly condemns any objection to Hezbollah’s control at the airport, although as will be shown, he too is cooperating with its operatives.
Key figures at governmental positions, in charge of everything that is going on at the airport:
Ghazi Zaiter – Parliament Member of Amal movement, Former Minister of Public Works and Transport
As an Amal member, he is de facto part of Hezbollah’s agenda. Oversaw everything that happens at the airport and ports; connected to Hezbollah via its parliament members. He gave the order to store the ammonium nitrate at Beirut’s port back in 2013. The crew of the ship that brought it was leaving the ship behind and escaped from the country with their lawyer’s help, Mohammad Zaiter, Ghazi’s son. After the explosion at the port in 2020 he moved from his position due to public pressure. In his time as a minister, Hezbollah made major progress in taking over the airport. He appointed Fadi al Hassan to its current position.
Michel Najjar – Parliament Member of Marada movement, Minister of Public Works and Transport
In 2020 replaced Zaiter in his role. He is also known as affiliated with Hezbollah and the Syrian regime. Marada movement is affiliated with Hezbollah.
Mohamed Shehab El-Din – Director General of Civil Aviation
He is aware and in charge of every detail of the situation in the airport. This means he is another link in the chain of Hezbollah’s control of key figures in the airport.
Badri Daher – Until 2020, Chief of the Lebanese Custom
He was caught helping a Saudi price smuggling a large amount of Captagon pills at the airport. He was also investigated for his approval to unload the ship that brought the ammonium nitrate to Beirut’s port in 2013. The assumption is that he was involved in many more cases of smuggling in both the airport and port of Beirut.
In 2016, a Lebanese businessman named Mohammad Noureddine was arrested in Paris. He was charged of being a mafia boss of a group that linked Colombian drug cartels and Hezbollah with a “Hawalla” system. He was under US sanction previously due to his role in Hezbollah’s financial apparatus in Lebanon and Iraq, with its Lebanese company Trade Point International S.A.R.L (now serves his sentence in France).
The “Hawalla” system worked as follows: Shipments of cocaine made their way from South America to Western Europe. Noureddine and his group were collecting the cocaine and selling it in Western European countries. With the cash they had after selling the drugs, they bought luxury items to launder the money, such as watches, bags, diamonds and even cars. Then, some of it sold in Europe at a higher price and the money was sent to the Colombians, and some of the merchandise was sent to the Middle East, especially to Lebanon and even to Africa. The value of every shipment of cocaine was one million USD every week. Arriving at its destination in Lebanon, the stock was sold to rich people at a high price and that money went directly to Hezbollah. That way it benefited both the Colombians and Hezbollah because the system is incredibly difficult to detect due to no trace of transactions. Noureddine took a large commission for running this operation.
German radio station decided to check this case thoroughly. They managed to access records of German Federal Police’s official investigation of Noureddine.
All this brief will be now connected here to our case discussing the control of Hezbollah at Beirut’s airport.
One of the gang members is nicknamed in the investigation Ali Z. he was appointed in Germany, buying luxury watches and smuggle them to Lebanon to sell them later in a higher price.
Noureddine was in contact with Adham Tabaja (as well Hezbollah top financier) about once a month, to set the arrangements for the next shipments. In summer 2015, Noureddine told Ali Z to get contact with the Director of Beirut’s airport to arrange a certain shipment. The Director was and still today is Fadi al Hassan. Here is a transcript of the conversation between them:
Fadi al Hassan: “I’ll be on duty tomorrow. I’ll prepare that in a moment.”
Ali Z: “Are you going to call the general or should I do it?”
Fadi al Hassan: “What should I do?”
Ali Z: “Can you get Ali through the custom?”
Fadi al Hassan: “Sure, I’ll send someone from the security guards to accompany him then.”
The general refers to the airport security chief, general George Doumit.
It is reported that the Noureddine gang invited Doumit to a luxury hotel in Paris and that the German police got pictures of both entering the hotel together.
This case is known to the Lebanese authorities. Even when applying to the Lebanese Interior Minister he decided to not comment. Nothing has changed since this case, and in fact, the network has upped its activity. Clearly, these key figures we mentioned here, together with many more in the airport, are protected by Hezbollah and Iran. Everybody in Lebanon knows that if you are going against Hezbollah in public, you can pay with your life, like happened to Lokman Slim a few months ago. Therefore, the silence about airport’s terminals and parliamentary members’ involvement continues.
As if that is not enough, the EU has invested 3.5 million Euros to improve the security system at the airport since 2018. New X – Rey machines and 12 more dogs that trained to sniff explosives joined the security team since then. It is apparently benefit for the security level but will not interrupt to Hezbollah’s operational system.
In a conference in Beirut in April 2018, The European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD) decided to invest hundreds of millions of Euros to improve the airport facilities.
Beirut airport – Key figures under Hezbollah’s control