Friday, December 22, 2006

Al-Manar: Plane came to Beirut from Tel Aviv on day of Gemayel assassination

Al-Manar: Plane came to Beirut from Tel Aviv on day of Gemayel assassination
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Hizbullah's television channel reported on Thursday that a Portuguese plane coming from Tel Aviv, Israel, landed at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport and remained on the ground for seven hours on November 21, the day that Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel was assassinated. However, conflicting reports said the plane that landed had come from Cyprus, not from the Jewish state.

Lebanese law prohibits any direct air navigation from Israel to Beirut.

But on the afternoon of November 21, Portuguese Foreign Minister Louis Amado arrived in Beirut on board a private plane on an official visit to meet the Portuguese UNIFIL troops stationed in the South. Ministerial sources told The Daily Star that the plane had come from Cyprus. However, Al-Manar said the plane came from Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and landed in Beirut at 11.31 a.m. It added that the flight marked the first time "official and normal contact was made between the two airports." Al-Manar said the "plane headed from Lisbon to Tel Aviv and then to Lebanon, leaving Beirut at around 7 p.m. toward an unknown destination." "Eleven people were on board; 10 of them disembarked," the TV station said. Al-Manar added that "eight people, who were not on board originally, boarded the plane in Lebanon and headed toward an unidentified destination." Al-Manar also said that the 10 people remained in Beirut, adding that the television station's reporters were conducting investigations to discover who they are. Al-Manar also quoted "well-informed sources" as saying that the Civil Aviation Safety Committee had "hired four US experts who work on the airport's second floor and earn $120,000 per month in a secret mission under the slogan of airport reforms."

No official statements were made by the relevant authorities by the time The Daily Star went to press. Sources from the Internal Security Forces told local daily An-Nahar that Al-Manar's claims "were completely false." However, other sources in the Surete Generale were quoted by An-Nahar Thursday as saying that the plane might have arrived from Tel Aviv. The sources added that the issue is currently under investigation. - The Daily Star

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