The first of several truck convoys carrying Iranian fuel has arrived in Lebanon from Syria, a Hezbollah spokesperson told Al Jazeera – a shipment intended to help ease crippling fuel shortages amid a dire economic crisis.
The first shipments of the fuel, carried by two convoys totalling 40 trucks according to Hezbollah’s Al Manar television channel, arrived in Lebanon on Thursday.
The fuel delivery has been portrayed by the Iran-linked Lebanese group as a huge boost to the cash-strapped country. However, the shipments violate United States sanctions imposed on Iranian oil sales and have gotten a mixed response in Lebanon.
The first of four Iranian fuel tankers docked in Syria’s Baniyas port earlier this week.
Oil export monitor Tanker Trackers says the four-tanker shipment contains a total of 33,000 metric tonnes of gasoil and would need 792 trucks to deliver the entire shipment to Lebanon, which is in desperate need of fuel.
Lebanon’s energy crisis is a result of an economic meltdown that has devastated the country since 2019. The value of the Lebanese pound has plummeted by about 90 percent and about three-quarters of the population lives in poverty.
Power cuts have plagued Lebanon for months. The state has struggled to provide more than a couple of hours of electricity per day, while families often struggle to afford the surging costs of private generators and to secure diesel fuel to run them.
Hospitals in Lebanon are in critical condition as they struggle to secure enough fuel to keep their lights on and equipment functioning.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech earlier this week that a month’s supply of the Iranian fuel would be donated to institutions such as public hospitals, the Lebanese Red Cross, Civil Defence forces, and orphanages.
Private hospitals, bakeries, factories that produce medicines, and other institutions can purchase the fuel at a low cost in Lebanese pounds. Nasrallah said they have not yet determined the price, but said it would be very affordable and not for profit.
“We’re waiting to see how Amana will price it,” Kassem said, referring to the Hezbollah-affiliated company organising the distribution.
The US, which has designed Hezbollah as a “terrorist” organisation, has sanctioned Amana for its links to the party.
Though the Iranian fuel tanker did not dock in Beirut, Lebanon could risk facing sanctions given that the fuel was financed, transported, and distributed through US-sanctioned entities.