AL-AIN, Lebanon — Dozens of tanker trucks carrying Iranian fuel arranged by the Hezbollah terror group arrived in shortage-hit Lebanon on Thursday.
As they entered from Syria through an illegal crossing in the eastern region of Hermel, the trucks were greeted by Hezbollah supporters waving the group’s yellow flag, ululating women tossing rice and rose petals, and men firing guns.
Hassan Nasrallah, the Iranian-backed terror group’s leader, had promised in August that he would bring fuel from Iran to alleviate the rationing that is sowing chaos across the country.
Lebanon defaulted on its debt last year and can no longer afford to import key goods, including petrol for vehicles and diesel to power generators during almost round-the-clock power cuts.
The first Iranian ship reached the Syrian port of Baniyas earlier this week. The cargo was offloaded there and trucked to Lebanon, the first of several planned deliveries.
A total of 80 trucks carrying four million liters (more than one million gallons) of petrol entered Lebanon on Thursday and were expected to fill the tanks of Al-Amana, a fuel distribution company which is owned by Hezbollah and has been under United States sanctions since February 2020.
“This is humanitarian aid that will meet the needs of the population,” said Jawad, a 50-year-old Hermel resident who was among the crowd gathered to welcome the convoy.
Hezbollah “is not replacing the state, it’s a temporary measure until the state can deliver its duties,” he said.
Heavy gunfire and at least one rocket-propelled-grenade, were fired in celebration, as the fuel tankers drove past. Others raised banners reading: “Thank you Iran,” and “Thank you Syria.”
Nasrallah’s announcement last month was a boon for the Tehran-backed Hezbollah and prompted the announcement of several other fuel supply schemes via other regional powers.
A Lebanon government line-up that had been over a year in the works was finally announced last week.
The main priority of Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s cabinet will be to guarantee petrol and electricity supplies and curb other shortages that are crippling the country.
The amount of Iranian petrol being delivered can only meet a small part of the demand in Lebanon, where motorists spend hours — sometimes days — in queues to fill up.
The country of six million is experiencing its worst-ever financial crisis, with a currency that has lost around 90 percent of its value, people’s savings trapped in banks, and qualified labor emigrating in droves.
The Lebanese pound has slightly increased in value from around 18,000 to 14,000 to the dollar on the black market since the new cabinet was announced on Friday, according to the monitoring website lirarate.org, but still lingers far below its official peg of 1,500.
Under another initiative to bring some power to the country, energy ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon earlier this month agreed to a plan to bring Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity to Lebanon via Syria.
The US has backed the plan and given rare approval for the Arab neighbors to escape punishment under sanctions targeting the Syrian regime.