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Gantz: Israel offered aid to Lebanese military four times in past year

Defense minister says ‘citizens of Lebanon are not our enemies,’ but implies offers of assistance were turned down

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks to the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies, February 2, 2022. (Screenshot)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks to the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies, February 2, 2022. (Screenshot)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz revealed on Wednesday that Israel has offered multiple times — including last week — to provide emergency assistance to Lebanon.

In prerecorded comments to the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies, Gantz, who is currently visiting Bahrain, said Israel has submitted offers four times over the past year to provide support to the Lebanese Armed Forces.

“Lebanon has unfortunately become an island of instability, and the citizens of Lebanon are not our enemies,” Gantz said in his remarks to INSS. “Therefore, I offered four times this year to assist Lebanon, including last week in an application sent to the UNIFIL commander.”

Israel and Lebanon are enemy states with no direct relations, and any communication occurs through third parties, including through the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, the peacekeeping mission that patrols the border.

Gantz said the IDF is offering to assist “in a targeted manner the Lebanese army, which is suffering from a shortage of basic supplies and has lost more than 5,000 soldiers that abandoned it recently.”

The defense minister said that the Lebanese Armed Forces face a particular threat from “the strengthening of Hezbollah with the direct support of Iran.”

Lebanese Army soldiers patrol the clashes area in the southern suburb of the capital Beirut, on October 14, 2021. (ANWAR AMRO / AFP)

Gantz did not say what response he received to the offers, but it is seen as highly unlikely that Lebanon would ever agree to cooperation with Israel, in particular with the IDF.

When Lebanon’s new Prime Minister Najib Mikati was sworn into office in September, he said his government “will deal with anyone for the sake of Lebanon’s interest, with the exception of Israel, of course.”

Gantz said in July that Israel had offered humanitarian aid to Lebanon more than once. In 2020, Israel offered humanitarian assistance after a massive blast at Beirut’s port killed over 200 people, but was rebuffed.

For more than two years, Lebanon has been facing a crippling economic, political and energy crisis that has left citizens without basic necessities and created a vacuum for the Hezbollah terror group to take further hold in the nation.

Lebanon’s snowballing economic crisis has been described as one of the world’s worst since the 1850s. A massive public deficit and a crashing national currency have made shortages perennial amid continuously soaring prices.

Lebanon’s electricity company offers only a couple of hours of power a day, and residents have heavily relied on costly and polluting private generators. Shortages of medicine, fuel and basic supplies have often brought the country to a standstill and driven more than half of the population deep into poverty. Political disagreements have delayed efforts to form a government to negotiate a rescue package with international financial institutions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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