As Lebanon is mired in an economic crisis, Hezbollah’s leader announced Thursday that an Iranian tanker is on its way to the country to deliver much-needed fuel and warned the US and Israel not to intercept the shipment.
“The vessel, from the moment it sails in the coming hours until it enters [Mediterranean] waters, will be considered Lebanese territory,” Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech. “To the Americans and Israelis, I say: it’s Lebanese territory.”
Iranian oil is under heavy US sanctions, and Washington has taken extreme measures to enforce them. In May, it was revealed that the US sold off 2 million barrels of stolen Iranian oil it took from a tanker that was seized off the coast of the UAE in February. During the Trump administration, the US stole several shipments of Iranian gas that were headed to Venezuela.
Israel has a history of attacking Iranian ships that were headed to Syria. The Wall Street Journal reported in March that Israel had attacked at least a dozen ships that were either Iranian or carrying Iranian fuel since 2019. Israel is also looking to take action against Iran over the July attack on the Israeli-linked tanker Mercer Street, which killed two crew members. Israel and the US blamed Tehran for the incident, but Iran denies that it was responsible.
Nasrallah said the fuel would be used by “hospitals, manufacturers of medicine and food, as well as bakeries and private generators.” He added that more tankers will come in the future to help with Lebanon’s fuel shortages.