Gantz says Israel prepared to aid Lebanon amidst economic crisis

Offer comes as Hezbollah seeks to make Lebanon financially dependent on Iran.

By World Israel News Staff.

Amidst Lebanon’s spiraling economic crisis, Defense Minister Benny Gantz declared that Israel is prepared to offer financial assistance to its northern neighbor.

“We are ready to act, and to encourage other countries to extend a helping hand to Lebanon so that it will once again flourish and emerge from its state of crisis,” said Gantz at the inauguration of a monument to the fallen soldiers of the Southern Lebanese Army near Metulla on Sunday.

“As an Israeli, as a Jew and as a human being, my heart aches seeing the images of people going hungry on the streets of Lebanon,” he said.

Gantz expressed the same sentiments on Twitter, saying that due to “Hezbollah’s attempts to bring Iranian investments into Lebanon,” he contacted the United Nations Interim Force (UNIFIL) to propose transferring Israeli humanitarian aid.

“Israel has offered assistance to Lebanon in the past, and even today we are ready to act and to encourage other countries to extend a helping hand to Lebanon so that it will once again flourish and emerge from its state of crisis,” Gantz tweeted.

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Gantz’s comments may have partially prompted Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah to deliver an address on video in which he insisted, “There are no people in the Israeli entity, they are all occupiers and settlers.”

His speech acknowledged government mistakes, but mostly blamed the U.S. for Lebanon’s economic woes.

Nasrallah added that Lebanon could rely on Iranian financial assistance and fuel imports, if necessary.

Analysts have pointed out that an easing of Western sanctions on Iran would give Tehran the financial wherewithal to tighten its influence over Lebanon.

Last year, after Beirut was devastated by a massive explosion in the city’s port, Lebanese officials rejected an Israeli offer of medicine and to treat the injured in Israeli hospitals.

The Lebanese cabinet resigned following that catastrophe; the caretaker government running the country since has been beset by paralysis while Hezbollah works to expand Iran’s influence.

Since October 2019, Lebanon’s currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value, trading at around 17,000 Lebanese pounds to the dollar on the black market. The official exchange rate remains at 1,507.

Electricity cuts last much of the day and privately run generators have had to be turned off for several hours to ration fuel. The country suffers from a shortage of vital products, including medicine, medical products and gasoline.

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For weeks, frustrated citizens have been lining up to fill up at gas stations, with occasional fistfights and shootings amid frayed nerves. More than half the population has been plunged into poverty.

With sectarian tensions on the rise, caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab warned on Monday that “Lebanon is a few days away from a social explosion.”

Associated Press contributed to this report.