First Iranian fuel deliveries reach Lebanon

Al-Ain (Lebanon) (AFP) –


Dozens of tanker trucks carrying Iranian fuel arranged by Shiite militant group Hezbollah arrived in shortage-hit Lebanon Thursday, an AFP correspondent reported.

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 and ululating women tossing rice and rose petals.

Hassan Nasrallah, the Iranian-backed group's leader, had promised in August 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 and diesel to power generators.

A 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 litres (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 US 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.

Nasrallah's announcement last month was a boon for the Tehran-backed movement and prompted several other fuel supply schemes via other regional powers to be announced.

A government lineup that had been over a year in the works was finally announced last week.

The main priority of 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 90 percent of its value, people's savings trapped in banks and qualified labour emigrating in droves.