Israel will not interfere with Hezbollah’s oil shipments from Iran to Lebanon

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Israel will not budge to stop fuel shipments from Iran to Lebanon amid the severe economic and energy crisis in the neighboring country, according to a senior military official and a TV report on Thursday.

Dozens of trucks carrying Iranian diesel arrived in Lebanon on Thursday, the first in a series of deliveries organized by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah. Overland delivery via neighboring Syria violates US sanctions imposed on Tehran after former President Donald Trump pulled America out of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in 2018.

The expedition is described as a victory for Hezbollah, which stepped in to supply fuel for its boss, Iran, while the cash-strapped Lebanese government grapples with months-long fuel shortages that have crippled the country. Hezbollah operates independently of the Lebanese authorities, who are struggling to cope with a crippling energy crisis.

While Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria to prevent Hezbollah’s arms supplies from reaching their targets, officials fear that the fuel targeting is seen as unnecessarily harming Lebanon’s economic recovery, he said. Channel 12 reported Thursday night. Israel therefore decided to avoid intervening, according to the report.

The recently retired Israeli navy commander, Vice Admiral Eli Sharvit, confirmed the policy in an interview with The Associated Press.

With Lebanon’s economy in turmoil, he said Israel had “no interest” in stopping fuel deliveries for civilian use.

A convoy of tankers carrying Iranian diesel from the Syrian border to Lebanon arrives in the eastern city of al-Ain, Lebanon, on September 16, 2021. (AP Photo / Bilal Hussein)

There was no immediate comment from Lebanese or US officials on the Iranian fuel delivery. Local commentators said Washington, worried about the chaos in Lebanon amid multiple and raging crises, may have decided to look away.

Hezbollah has described the Lebanese economic crisis, which began in late 2019, as being in part caused by an informal siege imposed by America due to the power and influence of the terrorist group in Lebanon. The terrorist group has been sanctioned by consecutive US administrations.

Vice Admiral Eli Sharvit watches aboard the Israeli Navy ship Atzmaut in the Mediterranean Sea, September 1, 2021. (AP Photo / Ariel Schalit)

The Lebanese crisis is rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by the ruling class and a sectarian political system that thrives on patronage and nepotism. Severe fuel shortages resulted in crippling blackouts. People line up for hours for gas. Protests and scuffles erupted at petrol stations across Lebanon, including some Hezbollah strongholds.

Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah announced last month that Iran was sending fuel to Lebanon to help ease the crisis. The first Iranian tanker ordered by Hezbollah arrived in the Syrian port of Baniyas on Sunday and the diesel was unloaded at Syrian storage sites before being transported by land to Lebanon on Thursday by tankers.

The convoy of 60 trucks, each carrying 50,000 liters (13,210 gallons), passed through an informal border post in Qusayr, Syria. Another convoy of 60 tankers is expected on Friday.

People paint portraits of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah as they gather to greet tankers carrying Iranian fuel as they arrive from Syria in the town of Baalbeck in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley on September 16 2021. (AFP)

Hezbollah, often accused of operating state within state, took part in the civil war in Syria alongside government forces. It operates its own crossing points along the Lebanese-Syrian border, far from official border posts.

Nasrallah said in a televised speech earlier this week that the tanker did not unload its cargo directly into Lebanon to avoid embarrassing authorities and risking sanctions against Lebanon.

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV called it “the tanker convoys to break the US siege.” He said the trucks were on their way to the town of Baalbek in eastern Lebanon, where a Hezbollah-linked distribution company will begin distributing the fuel. Nasrallah said the al-Amana company, which is already subject to US sanctions, would not risk further sanctions.

For critics, however, the convoy is a symbol of the dissolution of the Lebanese state. While the oil delivery was seen as a victory for Hezbollah, the group faces growing internal criticism for drawing Lebanon more and more into Iran’s orbit and for defending its resisting political allies. to change rather than pushing for reform.

“Remember this day,” tweeted Laury Haytayan, a Lebanese oil and gas expert and activist, describing it as the day Hezbollah conquered the Lebanese state.

Lebanese celebrate with flags as tankers carrying Iranian fuel arrive from Syria to al-Ain in Hermel, in the Bekaa Valley, eastern Lebanon, September 16, 2021 (AFP)

The Lebanese gathered on the side of the road leading to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon to welcome the convoy. Yellow flags and Hezbollah banners praising the Iranian-backed group and Syrian President Bashar Assad adorned the streets. A few women watered the trucks with rice and flowers as they passed. Others held up banners that read “Thank you Iran” and “Thank you Syria”. Heavy gunfire and at least one rocket propelled grenade were fired in celebration.

New Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, whose government was formed last week after a 13-month political stalemate, has not commented on Hezbollah’s deal to import fuel from Iran.

Nasrallah said a month of diesel would be donated to public hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, water stations and the Lebanese Red Cross. He said the fuel would also be sold at a discount to private hospitals, pharmaceutical factories, bakeries and cooperatives that sell food products.

He said three more tankers carrying diesel and one carrying gasoline were due to arrive in the coming weeks.

Faced with the possibility of Iranian fuel arriving in Lebanon, US officials said they were discussing long-term solutions to Lebanon’s energy crisis, including a recently reactivated natural gas pipeline from Egypt.

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