Hezbollah began bringing Iranian fuel into Lebanon via Syria on Thursday, a move the Shi’ite Muslim group says should ease a crippling energy crisis but which opponents say risks provoking U.S. sanctions.
Dozens of truck carrying Iranian fuel oil entered northeastern Lebanon near the village of al-Ain, where Hezbollah’s yellow flag fluttered from lampposts.
“Thank you Iran. Thank you Assad’s Syria,” declared a banner, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The trucks sounded their horns as they passed through al-Ain. Some onlookers waved Hezbollah’s flag, while a woman and boy threw petals at one vehicle.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah has said the ship carrying the fuel docked in Syria on Sunday after being told going to Lebanon could risk sanctions. read more
Washington has reiterated that U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil sales remain in place. But it has not said whether it is considering taking any action over the move by Hezbollah, which it designates a terrorist group. read more
The Lebanese government has said its permission was not sought to import the fuel. A security source said the tanker trucks passed through an unofficial border crossing.
The move marks an expansion of Hezbollah’s role in Lebanon, where critics have long accused the heavily armed group of acting as a state within the state.
Founded by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in 1982, Hezbollah has long been part of Lebanon’s governing system, with ministers and members of parliament.
It has fought numerous wars with Israel, and its fighters have helped Assad in the Syrian war.
Hezbollah has said it will donate fuel oil to institutions in need including government hospitals and orphanages and sell it at “an appropriate price” to others including private hospitals, medical storage facilities and flour mills.