Perspectives - July 9, 2021

Hezbollah Eulogizes Departed PFLP-GC Commander Ahmad Jibril

Hezbollah issued a statement eulogizing Ahmad Jibril, the founder and Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), who died in a hospital in Damascus on Wednesday. The eulogy described Jibril as a “great Palestinian commander and mujahid,” asking God to receive him mercifully “after his life that was filled with resistance, jihad, giving, and sacrifice on the path of Palestine.”

Israel Sentences Palestinian Woman Over Hezbollah Contacts

On Sunday, an Israeli court sentenced a Palestinian woman from East Jerusalem to 30 months in prison, probation, and a fine after acknowledging she had aided Hezbollah for several years. As part of a plea bargain, Yasmine Jaber admitted that she was in contact with two Hezbollah agents on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. One of them invited her to attend a conference on the Palestinian cause in Beirut, where she traveled in 2015 and 2016 in violation of Israeli law.

COVID-19 Delta Variant Arrives in Lebanon

Caretaker Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan confirmed last Friday that three Lebanese citizens had become infected with the highly contagious Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus. Hassan urged citizens and residents of Lebanon over 30 years of age to take any available vaccine, saying it was the only way to protect the country from the spread of the coronavirus and its variants.

Diab Warns of Lebanon’s Impending “Social Explosion”

Lebanon’s caretaker, Prime Minister Hassan Diab, issued a dire warning that his country was “a few days away” from a “social explosion,” urging the international community to send immediate aid to save Lebanon from “death and demise.”

Diab urged friendly countries to extend financial assistance to Lebanon despite the absence of a functioning government or implementation of reforms upon which the international community has conditioned aid. Diab said that linking such aid to reform of Lebanon’s highly corrupt system had become a “threat to the lives of Lebanese” and the country’s stability. At the same time, Diab said his government was powerless to re-start talks with the International Monetary Fund – which has conditioned aid to Lebanon on reform –  as only a new cabinet could do that. "This government does not have the right to resume negotiations with the IMF to implement the recovery plan set by the cabinet, for this entails obligations on the next government that it may not endorse," he said.

After Diab’s plea, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut announced that Ambassador Dorothy Shea would travel to Saudi Arabia on July 8 alongside her French counterpart Anne Grillo, to meet with Saudi officials. “This visit follows U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s trilateral meeting on Lebanon with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud on June 29 in Matera, Italy on the sidelines of the G-20 conference,” the Embassy stated. It added that Shea would discuss the “gravity of the situation in Lebanon” with Saudi officials and “emphasize the importance of humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese people, as well as increased support for the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Internal Security Forces.”

This announcement came alongside news that Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defense Minister Khaled bin Salman had met with senior State Department officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and discussed the “need for economic reform and humanitarian relief for the Lebanese people.”

Even unlikely actors have been moved by Lebanon’s plea for help. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz offered humanitarian aid to Lebanon via the United Nations after Diab’s speech. Gantz tweeted that “the difficult economic situation in Lebanon” as well as “Hezbollah's attempts to bring Iranian investments into Lebanon,” he approached United Nations Interim Force (UNIFIL) with a proposal to transfer humanitarian aid from Israel to Lebanon through Israeli army liaison officials. At a ceremony on Sunday, Gantz said that his "heart aches at the sight of the pictures of the hungry on the streets of Lebanon." He said that Israel is “ready to act” and provide humanitarian aid to the country.

Meanwhile, Lebanese government formation remains stalled. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Prime Minister designate Hariri may withdraw his candidacy from the premiership, pending his ability to find an appropriate exit.

Visit by U.S. Central Command Representative to Review Border Security Installations

The U.S. Embassy in Beirut announced on Tuesday that a representative from the United States Central Command, in coordination with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, is conducting a visit to review security upgrades to border security systems installed at Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) land and maritime border regiments. The representative’s two-week visit, which is set to conclude on July 9, “includes engagements with regimental commanders and the head of the LAF Navy to ensure the communications and surveillance systems integrate successfully into the operational framework at LAF headquarters.”

The Embassy noted that this visit is “part of ongoing U.S. assistance to the LAF, which has totaled over $2 billion since 2010, and supplements LAF investments in training, equipment and resources for its staff.” The statement added that “In June 2021, the United States provided $59 million as a reimbursement to the LAF for security expenses incurred in 2018, which is an addition to existing foreign military funding.  The United States has also committed to provide $120 million in foreign military financing in 2021 to support LAF operations and capacities, an increase in $15 million over last year’s support.”

Lebanese Parliament Approves Ration Card

Lebanon’s parliament approved funding a one-year ration card with $556 million to assist half a million families unable to afford basic goods during Lebanon’s ongoing financial crisis. Each family will receive an average of $93 per month under this program.

However, the source of funding for the ration card and the criteria to qualify for it have yet to be decided.

Hamas Political Leader Haniyeh Meets with Hezbollah’s Nasrallah in Beirut

Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh met with Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah during a trip to Lebanon which saw Haniyeh also meet with other Lebanese officials, including President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, and caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab. In addition, Haniyeh met with other Palestinian and Lebanese figures, including Lebanese Sunni Mufti Abdullatif Daryan and Beirut-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ziad al-Nakhala.

According to Al-Mayadeen, Haniyeh and Nasrallah discussed the recent Gaza-Israel escalation – dubbed “Quds Sword” by Palestinian factions – “in detail,” including its “causes, course, and outcomes, which could enable the Palestinian Resistance and Resistance Axis to build upon this great victory…to achieve the final victory.” Pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar learned that the meeting between Nasrallah and Haniyeh “came to set operational plans for coordination and cooperation between the Lebanese and Palestinian Resistance, to entrench the equation set forth by Nasrallah that any aggression against Jerusalem will lead to a regional war.”

Relatedly, Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem revealed in an interview with Al-Mayadeen – previewed by Al-Ahed news – that Hezbollah and Palestinian militant factions engaged in close intelligence cooperation during “Quds Sword.” According to Qassem, “some of the intelligence information was moment by moment from inside Palestine, on the movements of the Israelis, their plans, and capabilities.” Qassem even claimed that Hezbollah and the Palestinian factions were able to preempt and foil an Israeli ruse to lead Palestinian fighters into tunnels by issuing a fake announcement of an impending Israeli ground operation into Gaza. “We knew about this plan from the outset, and it was known by the Palestinians through a coordinated, detailed intelligence operation,” Qassem said.

Nasrallah Gives Speech

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech on Monday at the opening ceremony of a conference on media relations and the Palestinian cause. During this speech, Nasrallah stressed the importance of improving the “media confrontation” in tandem with military confrontation. He noted that the media outlets of the Resistance had aided in achieving victories through its use in psychological warfare, reiterating an old – and dubious – claim that “the enemy [i.e., Israel] today trusts the Resistance media more than they trust their own leaders.”

On the domestic front, Nasrallah once again reiterated his claim that the United States was orchestrating Lebanon’s economic and social collapse – a claim he has been stressing since the onset of Lebanon’s current crisis almost two years ago. Once again, he claimed that an “American siege” was aiming to punish the Lebanese and prevent any aid from reaching them.