Hezbollah-sponsored fuel arrives in crisis-hit Lebanon

Iranian diesel fuel tankers crossed the border from Syria to Lebanon early Thursday morning. The delivery was organized by the militant group Hezbollah to alleviate the acute fuel shortage in the crisis-stricken country.

The delivery violates US sanctions imposed on Tehran after former President Donald Trump pulled America out of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers three years ago.

It was portrayed as a victory for Hezbollah, which stepped in to supply fuel from its patron, Iran, while a cash-strapped government struggled with fuel shortages for months.

“This is a very big and great thing for us, because we broke through the siege of America and foreign countries. … We work with the help of God and our great mother, Iran, ”said Nabiha Idriss, a Hezbollah supporter who gathered with others to greet a tanker convoy passing through the eastern city of Al Ain.

Hezbollah has portrayed the economic crisis in Lebanon that began in October 2019 as triggered in part by an informal siege imposed by America over the strength and influence of a militant group in Lebanon. The group has been subject to consecutive sanctions by the US administrations.

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 paralyzed the country, leading to severe power outages that disrupted hospitals and bakeries. To get gas, people have to stand in lines for hours, commonly referred to as “lines of humiliation.”

Hezbollah leader Syed Hassan Nasrallah announced a month ago that Iran is sending fuel to Lebanon to help ease the crisis. The first Iranian oil tanker ordered by Hezbollah arrived at the Syrian port of Baniyas on Sunday, and diesel was offloaded to Syrian warehouses, and on Thursday it was delivered overland to Lebanon by tanker truck. The convoy passed the unofficial border crossing at Qusayr in Syria.

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

Hezbollah, often accused by its opponents of state administration and participating in the Syrian civil war with government forces, has its own border crossings between Lebanon and Syria, away from official border crossings.

There were no comments from Lebanese or US officials on the supply of Iranian fuel on Thursday.

“Don’t forget this day,” Lebanese oil and gas expert and activist Lauri Haytayan tweeted, calling it the day of Hezbollah’s victory over the Lebanese state.

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV called it “convoys of tank trucks to break the American siege,” adding that 20 tank trucks, each carrying 50,000 liters (13,210 gallons), crossed the border on Thursday and were heading for the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek. where Hezbollah will start distributing fuel.

The tankers crossed the path from the central Syrian province of Homs to the Lebanese Bekaa Valley and were greeted by residents who had gathered along the sides of the main road. The streets were decorated with yellow flags and Hezbollah banners praising the Iranian-backed group and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Several women filled trucks with rice and flowers as they drove by.

The Iranian diesel arrived almost a week after a new government was formed to break the 13-month deadlock. New Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati did not comment on the deal to import fuel from Iran.

Nasrallah said earlier this week that diesel fuel will be donated for one month to institutions including government hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, water stations and the Lebanese Red Cross. Nasrallah added that other people who will get fuel at low prices are private hospitals, drug and serum factories, bakeries and cooperatives that sell food.

Nasrallah said three more diesel tankers and one gasoline tanker will arrive in the coming weeks.

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