Hezbollah Says Iran Fuel On the Way as Syria Complains of Israeli Attack

Hours after Lebanon's Hezbollah said it had secured a shipment of Iranian fuel for the struggling Mediterranean nation, neighboring Syria has reported that it was under attack by Israel, which has sought to disrupt supply networks among its three foes.

"At approximately 23:03 this evening, the Israeli enemy carried out an aerial aggression with rockets from the direction southeast of Beirut, targeting some points in the vicinity of the city of Damascus and the vicinity of the city of Homs," the Syrian Ministry of Defense said in a statement Thursday. "Our air defense systems intercepted the enemy missiles and downed most of them."

"The results of the aggression are now being assessed," it added.

The attack would be the second of its kind in just two days after reports of a previous Israeli air raid on a site in the Quneitra region, opposite the Israel-occupied Golan Heights.

Reached for comment regarding the latest attack, the Israel Defense Forces first told Newsweek that it was looking into the reports, then declined to weigh in as a matter of policy.

"We don't comment on reports in the foreign media," an IDF spokesperson said.

Earlier on Thursday, the Lebanese Armed Forces reported that from 10:50 p.m. through 1:05 a.m. "two air violations were recorded by two Israeli enemy reconnaissance planes, during which circular flights were carried out over the areas of Beirut and its suburbs, Baabda, Aley, Al-Matn and the south.

"The issue of the breaches is being followed up in coordination with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon," the Lebanese military added.

Israel, jet, over, Lebanon
Syria has claimed that it is under attack by Israel. Above is an image shared by the Lebanese Ministry of Information's National News Agency showing what is purported to be the flight of Israeli aircraft over Lebanon on August 19, 2021. Lebanese Ministry of Information

Syria, itself beset by deep-seated economic woes and a decade-long civil war, has already offered health assistance to Lebanon as the two attempt to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

But as Lebanon's turmoil threatens to completely empty the country's fuel supply, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah announced Thursday that his group's international ally, Iran, was sending a shipment of fuel to Lebanon in defiance of U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

"This ship will be followed by another ship and other ships," Nasrallah said during an address marking the Islamic commemoration of Ashoura, adding: "We gave priority on the first ship to diesel because it is a top priority and is linked to people's lives."

And he warned that any attempts to disrupt the ship would be considered an attack on Lebanon, a veiled reference to other recent attacks attributed to Israel on Iranian vessels providing fuel to Syria.

Iran too has been accused by both the United States and Israel of targeting vessels, mostly in the Gulf of Oman, where a string of unclaimed incidents date back to 2019, a year after former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 multilateral nuclear deal and imposed strict economic restrictions on Iran.

In his remarks, Nasrallah blamed the U.S. for Lebanon's hardships, as well as those of Syria at the U.S. maintains troops alongside partnered local forces near oil and gas resources outside the control of Damascus.

Shortly after, Shea dismissed the Hezbollah chief's comments in an interview with Saudi Arabia's Al Arabiya.

"The United States is as frustrated as the Lebanese are with the situation, and I've been working on this for several weeks now. So, to be accused of being the sole source of this problem ... ad hominem personal attacks are the weakest form of argument," Shea said.

"And if that's all he can muster to explain the misery that the Lebanese people are living in, then shame on him," she added.

Shea said Lebanon was free to do as it pleases in terms of importing the desperately needed fuel to the country at a time when even hospitals were even at risk of shuttering due to the crisis. As for Washington's solution, she said the U.S. was in talks with the World Bank as well as Egypt and Jordan in search of way to support Lebanon.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said in a statement Thursday that Shea had informed him via a telephone call of "the American administration's decision to help Lebanon extract electricity from Jordan through Syria by way of Egyptian gas."

In two follow-up tweets, he cited Shea as saying that "The transportation of Egyptian gas through Jordan and Syria will be facilitated, reaching northern Lebanon" and that "negotiations are underway with the World Bank to secure financing for the price of Egyptian gas, repair and strengthening electricity transmission lines, and the required maintenance of gas pipelines."

Israel, strike, Syria, Golan, Heights
A picture taken on August 17 from the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights shows a fire burning in Syrian territory after a reported Israeli strike. JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images

The spat over Lebanon's resource needs came at a time of heightened tensions after top Israeli and Iranian military officials exchanged threats earlier this month and another conflagration broke out along the Israel-Lebanon border.

The IDF has regularly conducted strikes against Iran-linked targets in Syria, and after one such suspected strike earlier this month, an unclaimed rocket attack was conducted from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. Israel responded with artillery and airstrikes, and two days later, Hezbollah claimed a new set of rocket attacks that Israel answered with artillery fire.

Speaking to Hezbollah's attempts to import Iranian gas, a second IDF spokesperson accused the group of attempting to exploit Lebanon's situation for its own purposes.

"The IDF supports the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the State of Lebanon," the second IDF spokesperson told Newsweek. "However it is clear that Lebanon's dire situation is being used by Iran, and the terror organization Hezbollah, to further gain power and access in the region, cementing its entrenchment in the area and taking advantage of Lebanon."