Hezbollah taking advantage of corona crisis to smuggle drugs

In the shadow of the coronavirus crisis, the IDF reports double the amount of attempts to smuggle drugs across the Lebanese border into Israel.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

As Israel slowly eases restrictions and the new government prepares to tackle the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, Hezbollah and Lebanese-organized crime groups are taking advantage of the crisis to smuggle drugs across the border into Israel, reported Makor Rishon on Sunday.

The IDF reports double the usual amount of cross-border attempts to smuggle drugs in the last few weeks, with at least one organized smuggling cell caught each day. Many of these organized smuggling groups are affiliated with Hezbollah.

Makor Rishon reports that because of the economic crisis in Israel, the demand for illicit drugs has increased. Hezbollah views the situation as a welcome opportunity to increase its funds and has expanded its drug-smuggling activities.

The IDF has also seen a significant uptick in attempts to infiltrate into Israel via the Lebanese border. Since the beginning of 2020, eight Sudanese migrants have crossed into Israel from Lebanon. All of them were detained by the IDF.

The most recent infiltration attempt was last Tuesday evening, when two Sudanese migrants cut a hole in the border fence and entered Israel. They were captured a short time later and returned to Lebanon.

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In early May, five Sudanese migrants attempted to enter Israel. They were stopped and returned to Lebanon.

Last January, Ahmed Abshar Abachar, a 24-year-old Sudanese man, was detained by the IDF near the Lebanese border after he crossed into Israel. After a brief investigation, he was released and allowed to remain in Israel.

Lebanon has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, which exacerbated an existing economic crisis in the country. The nation is now on the verge of total economic collapse, defaulting on $90 billion of international debt and suffering from inflation that has rendered the Lebanese pound essentially worthless. Forty-five percent of Lebanese citizens now live below the poverty line.

The economic crisis in Lebanon has led to mass protests and rioting, and Israel has expressed fear that the unrest may be used by Hezbollah to gain control of the government. This concern is shared by many Lebansese citizens.

“A militia like Hezbollah needs a weak state to prosper. The current state of Lebanon is ideal for them,” tweeted Elie Jabbour, a Lebanese Christian. “A strong state with strong institutions doesn’t suit them at all.”

Despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis in Lebanon, the IDF says that Hezbollah is strengthening its intelligence and surveillance systems along the Israeli border and operating dozens of intelligence vehicles traveling along southern Lebanese roads, documenting and photographing IDF movements in the border zone.

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The IDF believes that Hezbollah isn’t interested in war with Israel. However, considering Hezbollah’s attempts to increase surveillance of Israeli activity at the border, the possibility exists that a provocative act by Hezbollah could escalate into a war. All IDF forces in the north are preparing for such a scenario.

At a UN Security Council hearing earlier this month, Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon demanded the Council spearhead a move to “significantly improve UNIFIL’s effectiveness, especially when it comes to limiting access and freedom of movement for the forces in southern Lebanon.”

UNIFIL is a UN peacekeeping mission established in 1978, serving as a buffer between the IDF and Lebanese Army in southern Lebanon and ensuring both sides comply with internationally issued directives.

“If Hezbollah continues to paralyze UNIFIL’s actions and reinforce its terrorist positions in the area, there will be no choice but to draw conclusions about the necessity of the forces in its current format,” Danon said.