Report: Jihadis Say ‘Red Tape’ Tied to Coronavirus Making Hezbollah Aid Harder to Get

The head of Lebanon's militant Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah speaks in a rare public appearance addressing thousands of his supporters ahead of the Shiite Ashura commemorations on November 3, 2014 the Lebanese capital's southern suburbs. Nasrallah had not been seen in public since July, when he attended a …
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Jihadists affiliated with the Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah, which also operates as a political party in Lebanon, are complaining that “red tape” tied to the group’s campaign against the Chinese coronavirus is making it harder to access aid, the Saudi outlet al-Arabiya reported on Wednesday.

Hezbollah has been engaged in a propaganda campaign against the Chinese coronavirus throughout Lebanon, a response, in part, to outrage from the Lebanese people over its outsized influence on the country’s government and rumors that Hezbollah’s ties to the Islamic regime in Iran resulted in the country’s domestic outbreak. Iran is experiencing one of the most destructive Chinese coronavirus epidemics in the world; dissident groups estimate that nearly 40,000 people have died there.

Hezbollah claims to be working alongside Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), also a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, in combating the virus.

“I earn $600, but I used to receive at least double that amount in dental care, gas subsidies, food supplies, and many others. A lot of the financial support we used to get has now been slashed,” a man named Abou Hadi, who al-Arabiya identified as a Hezbollah “fighter,” told the news agency. Hadi claimed to have fought in the Syrian Civil War – Shiite groups support dictator Bashar al-Assad – and suffered multiple injuries that require medical attention. Hezbollah promised to support him if he engaged in jihad on their behalf, but that support is allegedly dwindling.

“To get extra financial support or food aid, you need to be close to certain commanders. It’s all about waste [nepotism] now,” Hadi lamented. “That never happened before, the organization used to operate in a fair manner and took good care of its fighters. That is not the case anymore.”

“Fighters are complaining that there is more bureaucracy and red tape, which is making access to basic healthcare more complicated,” another unnamed source said in the report, adding that the combination of excessive spending and sanctions on the terrorist organization is forcing it to increasingly rely on Lebanese government funds.

President Donald Trump significantly increased sanctions on both the Iranian government and Hezbollah throughout his tenure, resulting in mounting reports of financial woes within the terrorist group and its patron government. Last year, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook told Congress that Hezbollah’s finances were so bad that the group was resorting to begging for donations.

“In March [2019], Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, went on TV and made a public appeal for donations,” Hook said. “Hezbollah has placed piggy banks in grocery stores and in retail outlets seeking the spare change of people.”

“Budget cuts” have made it harder of Hezbollah to pay its Syrian Civil War veteran jihadists a bonus they had come to expect, al-Arabiya noted.

In the beginning of the Middle East wing of the pandemic in March, Hezbollah immediately developed a publicity blitz in Lebanon, promising ambulances, hand sanitizers, and medical care. The party had just come off a 2019 in which many of the naiton’s youth had turned against it, organizing large protests demanding a more representative government. By February, given Hezbollah’s ties with Iran, even Lebanese celebrities were openly accusing Hezbollah of bringing the virus to their country.

“Only because we don’t want to upset Hezbollah, we don’t stop Iran flights. On top of all that, they tell us not to panic!” Elissa, a Lebanese pop star, opined.

Al-Arabiya cited a study by the Middle East Policy Center that estimates Hezbollah commands a sprawling healthcare system within Lebanon including “at least three hospitals, 12 health centers, 20 infirmaries, and 20 dental clinics,” largely created to help its jihadists engage in wartime activities in Syria and Iraq.

“Hezbollah says it is turning the organizational might it once deployed to fight Israel or in the civil war in neighboring Syria to battle the spread of the virus pandemic in Lebanon,” the Associated Press reported at the time, noting that Hezbollah was restructuring hospitals used to treat wounded jihadis for coronavirus patients.

In April, Ha’aretz reported that Hezbollah held a parade of 100 ambulances and medical teams affiliated with the terrorist group to galvanize popular support. It also made sure to invite friendly journalists to witness how it was refurnishing medical assets for the Chinese coronavirus “war,” as leader Hassan Nasrallah branded it. Iranian government outlets like PressTV regularly posted content celebrating the jihadist organization. Nasrallah also repeatedly accused the United States of fabricating coronavirus data, branding President Donald Trump and his administration “the worst liars.”

“For Hezbollah, COVID-19 is more than an illness: It’s also an opportunity to amass more political power, especially as one of its representatives, Dr. Hamad Hasan, also heads the Public Health Ministry,” the Israeli newspaper reported.

Last year’s protests in Lebanon have returned despite coronavirus “social distancing” measures. Hundreds took the streets of Tripoli this week after police killed a protester, participating in one of many events demanding the government do more to prevent the collapse of the country’s already precarious economy. The protests turned violent on Tuesday as participants used Molotov cocktails and rocks to attack police.

Lebanon has, at press time, documented 725 cases of Chinese coronavirus and 24 deaths.

 

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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