Hochstein and Berri (al-Nashra, August 30, 2023)
Hochstein-Mikati meeting (Lebanese government Twitter account, August 30, 2023).
The museum area (al-Manar, August 28, 2023).
A SAM-6 missile launch system (al-Ahed, August 26, 2023)
Unmanned aerial vehicles (al-Manar, August 28, 2023)
Unmanned aerial vehicles (al-Manar, August 28, 2023)
The Weapons Museum in Baalbek (al-Ahed, August 26, 2023)
- This past week no exceptional incidents were reported along the Israel-Lebanon border. Ali Hamia, the Lebanese minister of public works and transportation, who participated in a ceremony launching a road-paving project, made menacing statements towards Israel.
- The vote in the UN Security Council to renew UNIFIL’s mandate, which was supposed to be held on August 30, 2023, was postponed amid a dispute over the issue of the force’s freedom of action in Lebanon. If no resolution has been found by August 31, 2023 (the expiration date), the mandate is expected to continue in its current form for another month or two until a solution is found.
- Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah secretary general, gave a speech to mark the anniversary of the “victory over ISIS” in Syria. He warned Israel against targeted killings in Lebanon and supported the Lebanese government’s position on the renewal of the UNIFIL mandate.
- Amos Hochstein, an advisor to the president of the United States who mediates the delineation of the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon, arrived in Lebanon for a visit. He will hold discussions with the Lebanese government regarding the implementation of the maritime border agreement and other regional issues.
- In Baalbek in the Beqa’a Valley, Hezbollah opened its Jihad Museum, where examples of the organization’s various weapons are displayed, including IDF weapons which fell into their hands.
- An investigation aired on al-Hadath TV revealed how Hezbollah’s control of Beirut’s international airport allows Iran to smuggle weapons into Lebanon.
- Given Lebanon’s acute economic crisis, the governor of the Central Bank demanded the government carry out reforms, the ministry of communications prohibited Internet providers from charging fees in dollars and Hezbollah provided diesel fuel to the residents of several villages in south Lebanon.
- In Syria, an attack attributed to Israel was carried out at the Aleppo airport in the north of the country. According to the reports, military equipment from Iran intended for Hezbollah was targeted.
- This past week no exceptional incidents were reported along the Israel-Lebanon border.
- Ali Hamia, Lebanon’s Hezbollah-affiliated minister of public works and transportation, launched a road construction project of about four kilometers (about 2.5 miles) from the village of Shuba to the Mount Dov area (the Blue Line). He said the road would serve the residents of the area and allow villagers access to their fields and lands. He added that constructing the road would show Lebanon’s presence on all liberated Lebanese land and they would not ask anyone’s permission to develop the area. According to reports, the ceremony was held under the watchful eye of the “Israeli enemy, ” which raised its level of alert (al-Akhbar, Ali Shoeib’s Twitter account, August 26, 2023).
Right: Beginning the road work. Left: Ali Hamia (front row, black shirt) and other participants in the ceremony (Ali Shoeib’s Twitter account, August 26, 2023)
Renewal of the UNIFIL mandate in Lebanon
- On August 30, 2022, the UN vote to renew the UNIFIL mandate scheduled for August 30, 2023 was postponed; the mandate expires on August 31, 2023. According to a report, the vote was cancelled due to American and UAE claims that the wording proposed by France infringes on UNIFIL’s freedom of action. According to the proposed wording, UNIFIL patrols would be coordinated with the Lebanese government, contradicting last year’s amendment, which stated that UNIFIL did not need to coordinate its patrols with the Lebanese government (Reuters, August 30, 2023).
- In preparation for the vote, conflicting reports were published regarding the wording of the proposed resolution and Lebanon’s attempts to change the section dealing with the force’s freedom of action:
- Abdullah Bou Habib, the Lebanese foreign minister, met at the UN with Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary general, and with members of the Security Council. He said that stability in south Lebanon was based on cooperation between UNIFIL and the Lebanese authorities, and that Lebanon aspired to strictly maintain UNIFIL’s freedom of action while coordinating with the Lebanese army and maintaining Lebanese sovereignty (al-Nashra, August 25, 2023, al-Wasat, August 29, 2023).
- According to an editorial in the Hezbollah-affiliated al-Akhbar, Western countries were trying to pressure Lebanon to withdraw its demand that UNIFIL coordinate its patrols with the Lebanese army, thereby promoting Israeli interests. Lebanon, therefore, would not cooperate with any decision giving UNIFIL freedom of action (al-Akhbar, August 28, 2023).
- Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported that the Lebanese government had been mortified by the insistence of the international community to extend UNIFIL’s mandate and predicted the UN would not only extend the mandate but expand its powers to move in south Lebanon without the Lebanese army accompaniment. It claimed the Lebanese government was under pressure from Hezbollah, which opposes any change in UNIFIL’s powers, adding that Najib Mikati, prime minister of the interim government, instructed Foreign Minister Bou Habib to reject any proposal inconsistent with Lebanon’s position (al-Sharq al-Awsat, August 28, 2023).
- The Hezbollah-affiliated al-Mayadeen network claimed that extending UNIFIL’s mandate meant making it subject to Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which gives it the power to act by force against a threat to peace. According to al-Mayadeen, that could encourage Israel, the United States and other Western countries to put pressure on UNIFIL to increase efforts to disarm Hezbollah (al-Mayadeen, August 28, 2023).
- Lara Yazbek, in an article on the anti-Hezbollah MTV news website, defined the organization’s conduct as “causing a foul.” She wrote it was only natural that countries whose soldiers participate in UNIFIL missions would want to extend its powers (Mtv.com.lb), August 28, 2023).
- On the eve of the extension of the mandate, al-Nashra’s news site revealed the draft of the resolution, according to which the UNIFIL force will not need Lebanese government approval for its activities in south Lebanon. The draft also condemned attempts to harm its soldiers or limit the force’s freedom of action (al-Nashra, August 29, 2023).
- Al-Akhbar reported that following the disclosure of the draft, “corrections” to Lebanon’s satisfaction were made in the resolution. According to another source, they included a UNIFIL commitment to continue coordinating with the Lebanese government and advance resolving the Ghajar dispute, leading to the IDF’s withdrawal from the northern part of the village (al-Akhbar, August 30, 2023; al-Liwaa, August 30, 2023) .
- On August 31, according to media “sources, ” talks were being held to reach a final draft version, and the issue could be resolved on August 31, 2023 (the date the mandate expires). However, if the talks were unsuccessful, the mandate would continue for another month or two in its current form until an agreement had been reached (al-Nashra, L’Orient-Le Jour, August 31, 2023).
The American envoy visits Lebanon
- Amos Hochstein, American special presidential coordinator for global infrastructure and energy security, the mediator of the Israel-Lebanon maritime border, arrived in Lebanon on August 30, 2023. According to an announcement issued by the American embassy in Lebanon, he will deal with implementing the maritime border agreement between Israel and Lebanon (October 2022) and in regional affairs (American Embassy in Lebanon website, August 30, 2023)
- Hochstein met with Najib Mikati, prime minister of the interim government, and Nabih Berri, speaker of the Lebanese Parliament and head of the Amal movement. Berri thanked Hochstein for his efforts, which contributed to the start of drilling in Block 9, and emphasized that Lebanon wanted to maintain its stability and sovereignty. Berri said it was important to stop Israel’s “violations” of Resolution 1701 and claimed that Lebanon aspired to strengthen its relationship with the UNIFIL force (Lebanese government Twitter account, August 30, 2023; al-Nashra, August 30, 2023).
- On August 30, 2023 Hochstein held a dinner for Joseph Aoun, commander of the Lebanese army (Twitter account of the United States Embassy in Lebanon, August 31, 2023)
Right: Hochstein-Mikati meeting (Lebanese government Twitter account, August 30, 2023). Left: Hochstein and Berri (al-Nashra, August 30, 2023)
Nasrallah’s speech for the “victory” over ISIS
- On August 28, 2023 Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah secretary general, gave a speech to mark the sixth anniversary of the “victory” over ISIS in Syria. The main points were the following (al-Manar, al-Mayadeen, August 28, 2023):
- A warning to Israel not to carry out targeted killings in Lebanese territory: He said Hezbollah would respond harshly to any Israeli assassination attempt of a Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian or Iranian or any other person on Lebanese soil. Assassinations would not stop the “resistance” [anti-Israeli terrorism] and Hezbollah would not permit the existing rules of confrontation to be changed. The Israeli government, he said, called the escalation of the “resistance in the West Bank” and its helplessness to deal with the Palestinians part of an Iranian plot, but it was “pure Palestinian desire [sic].”
- Renewal of the UNIFIL mandate: He praised the Lebanese government’s efforts to amend the section regarding UNIFIL’s freedom of action, claiming the amendment was “merely symbolic.” He also warned that if the Lebanese government failed to amend the article, the south Lebanese residents would not permit it to be implemented. He claimed Israel wanted the UNIFIL force to act as spies and for UNIFIL soldiers to carry out missions where unmanned cameras or spy drones could not reach.
- Activity in Syria: ISIS had ambitions to expand to Lebanon and therefore it had been vital for Hezbollah to fight it in Syria. He accused the United States of using the fight against ISIS as a pretext to operate in Syria and expand its activities east of the Euphrates River, “looting” oil and gas fields and preventing their restoration to Syria.
Nasrallah delivers a speech (al-Manar, August 28, 2023)
Opening of the Hezbollah Jihad Museum in Baalbek
- On August 26, 2023, Hezbollah inaugurated its Jihad Museum in Baalbek in the Beqa’a Valley. The museum has displays of about 70 different types of weapons, including tanks, APCs, rocket launchers and anti-aircraft weapons, UAVs, naval vessels, anti-tank weapons (al-Ahed, August 26, 2023).
- Some of the weapons on display are used by Hezbollah, including a SAM-6 surface-to-air missile launch system, various types of UAVs and speedboats (al-Manar, August 28, 2023). In another part of the museum there are displays of IDF weapons from the First Lebanon War (1982), from 2000 (the IDF’s withdrawal from Lebanon) and from the Second Lebanon War (2006). Weapons taken during Hezbollah’s fighting in Syria against ISIS and the jihadist militias (2017) are also displayed (al-Manar, August 28, 2023).
Right: The museum area (al-Manar, August 28, 2023). Left: A SAM-6 missile launch system (al-Ahed, August 26, 2023)
Unmanned aerial vehicles (al-Manar, August 28, 2023)
The Weapons Museum in Baalbek (al-Ahed, August 26, 2023)
- The museum in Baalbek is another in a series of museums, exhibitions and “battle heritage” sites that Hezbollah cultivates as part of its “Jihad tourism” attractions. Hezbollah uses them to influence the Shiite population and others in Lebanon, spread its ideology and “preserve the fighting spirit, ” especially against Israel.
Smuggling arms to Lebanon
- The al-Hadath news channel issued the results of an investigation revealing Hezbollah’s complete control of Hariri International Airport in Beirut, allowing Iranian planes smuggling weapons to Lebanon to land freely. Three Iranian airlines working for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Qods Force fly to Lebanon: Mahan Air, Iran Air and Meraj. During the first half of 2023, more than 75 Iranian planes landed in the capital, of which 35 belonged to Iran Air, 21 to Mahan Air and 20 to Meraj.
- According to the report, Hashem Safi al-Din, chairman of Hezbollah’s Executive Council, and his son Riza, who is married to Zeinab, Qassem Soleimani’s daughter, represent Hezbollah for matters of weapons transfers at the airport. Also involved is Muhammad Qusayr, known as Haj Fadi, in charge of Hezbollah’s Unit 4400, which specializes in smuggling, and senior Hezbollah operative Wafiq Safa. Al-Hadath’s sources claimed the Lebanese customs authority was aware of the smuggling and received kickbacks from Hezbollah (al-Hadath YouTube channel, August 27, 2023, Phalangist Party website, August 28 , 2023).
Picture from the representative [ort (al-Hadath YouTube channel, August 27, 2023)
Reactions to a possible Israeli attack on a senior Hamas figure in Lebanon
- The Lebanese media gave extensive coverage to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s threat to attack Saleh al-‘Arouri, deputy chairman of Hamas’ political bureau and responsible for Hamas activity in Judea and Samaria, who currently resides in Lebanon. According to reports, Hezbollah and Hamas decided to strengthen cooperation and coordination, including investing efforts to secure al-‘Arouri. Nasrallah related to the issue in his speech and promised a harsh response to any Israeli assassination on Lebanese territory (Lebanon24, August 30, 2023).
- Delegations from Arab countries, including intelligence personnel, reportedly went to Beirut to meet with Hezbollah and Hamas representatives, fearing an escalation should al-‘Arouri be killed and advised him to leave Lebanon (Nadaa al-Watan, August 28, 2023).
- Palestinian political commentator Abd al-Bari Atwan related to the threats and speech, claiming Nasrallah was aware that Israel’s threats to assassinate Lebanese and Palestinian officials were real. He claimed Israel’s “failure” in dealing with the Palestinian “resistance” [terrorist attacks] and the internal situation in Israel motivated it to attempt to restore “its collapsed security deterrence” and public faith in the army (Rai al-Youm, August 30, 2023).
- Ibrahim Alamin, a Hezbollah-affiliated al-Akhbar political commentator, claimed the United States was pressuring Lebanon regarding the Palestinians in Lebanon who were directing terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria in a way that made both America and Israel regard the country as the “headquarters of the Palestinian resistance” (al-Akhbar, August 29, 2023 ).
Internal Lebanese Affairs
- Na’im Qassem, Hezbollah deputy secretary general, claimed members of the Lebanese parliament in Lebanon were sowing confusion and working hard to delay the presidential elections, even though they were breaking the law of the land by doing so. In the meantime, he claimed, Hezbollah was doing everything possible to save Lebanon and elect a president (al-Akhbar, August 25, 2023)
- A video circulated on social media showing masked operatives shooting at targets with pictures of Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces party; Sami al-Jamil, leader of the Phalangist Party; and the Israeli flag. The media outlets reporting on the video claimed Hezbollah was behind its distribution and accused Hezbollah of increasing tensions and threatening political opponents (alnet.com August 28, 2023).
Pictures from the video attributed to Hezbollah (Twitter account of Patrick Risha, head of the communications department of the Phalangist Party, August 28, 2023)
Arrest of two civilians suspected of working for Israeli intelligence
- A Russian citizen and his partner were arrested by the Lebanese general security forces as they were about to fly out of Beirut airport. Reportedly, the arrest was carried out through cooperation between Hezbollah’s and Lebanon’s security forces. The Russian man had aroused the suspicion of Hezbollah’s security forces while walking around the Dahiya, the southern suburb of Beirut, which is a Hezbollah stronghold. During interrogation he admitted he had been recruited by Israeli intelligence and received instructions to go to Lebanon. He was provided with maps showing the locations of Hezbollah facilities and told to go to the addresses and inspect and photograph them. While in Lebanon he went to the Dahiya several times, including during last month’s Ashura ceremonies. Reportedly, during interrogation his partner admitted being aware of his work and assisting him (al-Akhbar, August 26, 2023).
The economic crisis
- Given Lebanon’s acute economic crisis, and the delays and absence of political action, Wassim Mansouri, appointed governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon on July 31, 2023, demanded a series of urgent reforms. He also announced a halt to printing money to cover the deficit. He warned that the crisis would worsen in late September-early October when Lebanon’s foreign exchange reserves ran out and the Central Bank would no longer be able to intervene by purchasing dollars and financial support from International Monetary Fund would no longer be sufficient (Lebanon24, August 28, 2023).
- OGERO, a company managed by the Lebanese ministry of communications, recently announced an increase in the prices of its services, which include Internet and telephones. OGERO is the communications provider setting Internet and telephone standards and manages Lebanon’s telecommunications market. There are also unofficial Internet providers operating in Lebanon which have informed their customers that they were also going to raise fees, but that they would be in dollars. The ministry of communications announced their fees would be in Lebanese pounds (al-Ahed News, August 30, 2023).
- According to the Lebanese ministry of energy, the prices of gasoline and diesel fuel recently rose slightly while cooking gas prices remained unchanged. Hezbollah supplied about 5,000 liters of diesel fuel to water pumping stations for the wells of the south Lebanon water corporation and in the Sidon region (al-Markazia and albuss.net,) August 27, 2023).
The poor state of the Lebanese army
- Joseph Aoun, commander of the Lebanese army, and the commanders of the Lebanese security forces met with the Parliament’s Defense Committee and gave a report about their poor state. After the meeting Michel Daher, a member of the Lebanese parliament, referred to the state of the security forces and army as on “brink of collapse, ” stating that if their urgent needs were not met they would be unable to continue their activities, leading, he claimed, to a “security earthquake” (al-Nashra, August 29, 2023).
Air strike in Aleppo
- Before dawn August 28, 2023, an air strike was carried out at the airport in Aleppo. Syria accused Israel of the attack and announced the shutdown of the airport. The Syrian foreign ministry called for international intervention to punish Israel, claiming Israel was attacking Syria to “escape its internal crises ” (SANA, August 28, 2023). Al-Hadath reported the attack damaged “sensitive military equipment” from Iran (al-Hadath, August 28, 2023).
- Lebanese political commentator Nidal al-Saba claimed the targets of the Israeli attack were the weapons and missile depots at al-Neirab military airport and arms supply lines from Iran to Lebanon. He also claimed there was a connection between the attack and American military activity in Syria (Nidal al-Saba’s Twitter account, August 28, 2023).
 UN Security Council Resolution 1701 was passed on August 12, 2006, at the end of the Second Lebanon War. It included authorization for an increased UNIFIL force in Lebanon to prevent hostilities and a UNIFIL commitment to protect the region from violence. It also stated that no weapons would be brought into areas where there was a UNIFIL presence without authorization from the Lebanese government, and imposed an embargo on the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah. ↑
 For further information see the ITIC November 4, 2019 report, "Jihadi tourism: visits to battle legacy sites and shahid tombs as an indoctrination tool for spreading Hezbollah’s ideology." ↑
 The late Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC's Qods Force. ↑
 Special drawing rights are supplementary foreign exchange reserve assets defined and maintained by the International Monetary Fund. SDRs are units of account for the IMF, and not a currency per se. They represent a claim to currency held by IMF member countries for which they may be exchanged (Wikipedia). ↑