image Photo: Reuters

Israel worried about direct Iran-Lebanon flights

Iran’s Maraj Airlines are now reportedly operating weekly round-trip Tehran-Beirut flights, in addition to existing from Syria to Lebanon.

By Erin Viner

Following publication of the new routes by Arab media networks, security concerns are heightening that Iran’s government-affiliated airline will now transport weapons and sensitive equipment directly to its regional terror factions, such as Hezbollah, rather than circuitously through Syria.

Meraj has twice been sanctioned by the United States; first in 2014 for transporting weapons from Tehran to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; and again in 2018, when two people affiliated with the company and its associate, Dena Airways, were also slapped with punitive measures.

The elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) has long been engaged in the provision of arms to its proxies both Lebanon and Syria. It is believed that Tehran is increasingly turning to the skies to arm its Middle East militias, after previous ground and sea shipments have been targeted by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

Confirmation that the Meraj Airline is being used for ammunition deliveries would place Lebanon at additional threat in a situation similar to what has been happening in Syria.

Regional and intelligence sources say Israel has in recent months intensified strikes on Syrian airports and air bases to disrupt Iran’s increasing use of aerial supply lines.

The Damascus International Airport has been the frequent target of alleged Israeli strikes, including this past October, September, and in June when damage was so severe that all incoming and outgoing flights were suspended until renovation could be carried out. Additionally in early November, the Hezbollah-affiliated Al Mayadeen television channel blamed Israel for a strike on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq against a tanker truck convoy that both Damascus and Baghdad security and border officials said were transporting Iranian fuel.

Israel has acknowledged mounting hundreds of attacks on Iranian-linked targets in Syria where the Islamic Republic’s forces and proxy have become entrenched in deployments aimed at attacking Israel over the last decade.

While the Jewish State rarely confirms such missions, the country’s political and defense leaders have repeatedly stated that Iran’s presence just over the northern frontier will not be tolerated.