How Israel’s Number 1 Enemy Deals with the Coronavirus

April 3, 2020

by: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira

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Hezbollah leader Sayyid Nasrallah

Friday, 3 April 2020 | The coronavirus in Lebanon has put Hezbollah in a complex and sensitive position. Immediately after the first infected individuals were identified, Hezbollah was accused of conveying the disease to the country from Iran. Air traffic from Tehran to Beirut had continued without letup as Lebanese students and their families fled the universities in Iran—particularly the madrasas of Qom, where thousands of Lebanese students learn—and returned to Lebanon without being checked or put in quarantine, thereby spreading the disease from Iran to Lebanon.

These accusations sparked fear as well as intense anger at Hezbollah, which claimed that the virus had broken out in the Jesuit monasteries of Beirut and Bikfaya in Lebanon. Hezbollah thereby sought to place the blame at the heart of the Maronite Christian community.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, who has given several speeches over the last few weeks, stated unequivocally that the responsibility for handling the virus in Lebanon belongs to the Lebanese state and the Lebanese government. That means all residents of Lebanon, including Hezbollah members and their families, must comply with the decisions of the Lebanese Health Ministry, which is headed by a Hezbollah-affiliated minister.

Meanwhile Hezbollah declared a state of emergency in its ranks and came up with an emergency plan to assist the Lebanese government that includes:

  • 1,500 physicians, 3,000 nurses and paramedics, 5,000 members of medical teams and 1,500 workers to provide field services.
  • The full medical team, including logistics personnel and medical services, will number 24,500 people.
  • An operations room in which teams from various disciplines will deal with the virus.
  • The opening of two Hezbollah hospitals under Hezbollah’s aegis.
  • The opening of private hospitals that had been closed.
  • 100 special and equipped ambulances.
  • The setting up of special committees in villages, towns and urban neighborhoods that will assist the medical teams.
  • The use of Hezbollah’s medical emergency capabilities, which are designed for war against Israel.
  • Preparation of the ventilators possessed by Hezbollah’s military forces.
  • The opening of bank accounts at Hezbollah’s institute for loans to provide loans to owners of businesses who have been hard hit.

In the wake of the crisis, Nasrallah has appointed Hashem Safi al-Din, head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council (a kind of Hezbollah prime minister and number two in the movement) to craft and implement the emergency plan. Nasrallah thereby underlined the importance he assigns to tackling the issue.

The coronavirus crisis offers a rare opportunity for Hezbollah to present itself as a Lebanese movement that acts on behalf of the Lebanese state. Presumably, most of Hezbollah’s aid will be directed to the Shiite regions of Lebanon, which are also the regions that support the movement.

Still, it should be borne in mind that, at the same time that Hezbollah has committed itself to help the Lebanese state deal with the coronavirus, hundreds of Hezbollah fighters are up to their necks in the war in Idlib, Syria, which continues to inflict losses on Hezbollah and to spark outrage among the Shiite community. The most critical voice continues to be that of Sheikh Subhi al-Tufayli, who was Hezbollah’s first secretary-general and recently declared that fighting under Putin’s flag in Idlib is forbidden by Sharia (Islamic) law.

Posted on April 3, 2020

Source: (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs originally published this article on March 31, 2020. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

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