People wave Hezbollah flags as they welcome tankers with Iranian fuel in Baalbeck, Lebanon, September 16, 2021 (AFP)
Israel’s military has said it will not try to block Iran’s shipments of diesel fuel to Lebanon.
facing its own economic problems and amid stalled talks over its nuclear program, Tehran has sought a high-profile PR victory with the shipments. Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which is part of a tenuous coalition government, is seeking advantage over political rivals by declaring its role in ensuring the deliveries amid the country’s long-running economic and financial crisis.
Video showed dozens of trucks with Iranian diesel arriving in Lebanon on Thursday. The political significance was further elevated by the movement of the fuel through Syria, where the Assad regime has been sanctioned over its mass killing of civilians and other crimes against humanity.
Israel has reportedly carried out dozens of attacks on Iranian ships transporting oil to Syria, as well as regularly striking Iranian and Hezbollah targets inside the country. Tehran has responded with its own strikes on vessels linked to Israeli interests.
But the recently-retired coamander of the Israeli Navy, Vice Adm. Eli Sharvit, told the Associated Press that Israel has “no interest” in targeting fuel deliveries amid Lebanon’s shattered economy and fuel shortages.
He reiterated that Israel will continue attacks to prevent weapons transfers to Hezbollah: “We are very vigilant concerning seaborne arms shipments, and every time that a shipment is one of arms, and not something else, we act.”
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said earlier this week that the Iranian tanker did not offload oil directly in Lebanon to avoid embarrassment of authorities and the risk of sanctions.
Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV proclaimed “the tanker truck convoys to break the American siege”, saying they would deliver the fuel a Hezbollah-linked distribution company in Baalbek in eastern Lebanon. The company, al-Amana, is already sanctioned by the US.
Lebanon’s new Prime Minister Najib Mikati, head of a government formed last week after a 13-month deadlock, has not commented on the deliveries.