Beirut – After launching a rocket from the border area to Israeli positions last month, a group of Hezbollah fighters were approached by angry villagers as they drove back to the base. They smashed the windshield of the vehicle and lifted them briefly.
This is a rare incident of resistance, which shows that many people in Lebanon will not tolerate the provocation of this powerful group that may trigger a new war with Israel.
As Lebanon plunges into deeper poverty, many Lebanese criticize the Iranian-backed Hezbollah more openly. They blamed the organization and the ruling class for the devastating multiple crises that plagued the country, including the violent currency collapse and severe shortages of medicines and fuel.
Joe Macaron, a Middle East analyst based in Washington, said: “Hezbollah faces the most significant challenge in maintaining control of the Lebanese system and the so-called’protective environment of resistance’ against Israel.”
Events at the border and other confrontations — including fatal shootings at the funerals of Hezbollah fighters and rare indirect criticism from the country’s highest Christian religious leader — put the organization on the defensive.
In recent months, anger has spread, and even in Hezbollah strongholds, many people protested against power outages and fuel shortages, as well as the currency collapse, which plunged more than half of the country’s 6 million population into poverty.
In its strongholds mainly inhabited by Shia Muslims, it is not uncommon for people to openly oppose the organization. They pointed out that when most Lebanese people pay their wages in Lebanese currency, Hezbollah is paying wages in U.S. dollars, and the Lebanese currency has depreciated by more than 90% in the past two years.
Protests and melee broke out in gas stations and some Hezbollah strongholds around Lebanon. In rare acts of resistance, protest groups also closed main roads in areas south of Beirut and southern Lebanon.
In a recent speech, Hezbollah leader Said Hassan Nasrallah appeared to be angry and blamed the shortage on what he described as an unannounced siege in the West. He said that the chaos in Lebanon was provoked from the “black room” in the US embassy.
Critics say that Hezbollah has not promoted reforms, but is on the side of political allies resisting change. They say the organization is increasingly drawing Lebanon into Iran’s orbit through bidding, and US sanctions on Iran and Hezbollah have made matters more difficult.
Hezbollah was once regarded as an almost sacred and unshakable force fighting for a noble cause — the struggle against Israel’s enemies — and it is now seen by many as part of the corrupt political bloc that caused the country’s epic collapse. Nevertheless, the organization enjoyed unwavering support on the basis of its support when fighting against Israel.
Hezbollah is often criticized for being a state within a state, and it tries to mitigate the impact of the crisis on its supporters in a similar way.
Although the government has been working hard to issue ration cards to poor families for months, Hezbollah is already far ahead. It has issued two such cards to impoverished families in Hezbollah’s fortress, one named Sajjad after the Shi’ite imam, and the other named Nour, which means light, for its fighters and institutional employees. The number of people is approximately 80,000.
“We will serve you with our eyelashes.” This is Hezbollah’s slogan for the extremely poor in its community-Lebanese meaning that they are willing to sacrifice anything to help others.
Tens of thousands of people holding Sajjad cards can not only buy highly subsidized products from dozens of shops scattered across Lebanon – mainly staple foods made in Lebanon, Iran, and Syria – but can also operate in the surrounding 48 Hezbollah Of clinics and medical centers to receive medical treatment and advice. Lebanon.
Nasrallah also organized a maritime corridor to transport oil from Iran to Lebanon to help alleviate fuel shortages, and the first tanker is believed to be on the way. This move was praised by Hezbollah supporters and severely criticized by its opponents, who said it might bring more sanctions to Lebanon.
In the border incident, a small number of Druze villagers intercepted Hezbollah fighters on their way back after launching rockets into disputed areas controlled by Israel. The villagers accused them of putting them in danger if Israel counterattacked, and they briefly detained them and the mobile rocket launchers they used.
These fighters and launchers were then handed over to the Lebanese Army, which released them on the same day.
Later, Hezbollah angered many Christians because supporters launched a campaign on social media against the leader of Lebanon’s largest Maronite Catholic Church, accusing him of treason after criticizing the organization for launching rockets on Israeli positions.
This widely feared organization has been criticized by local opponents. They include suppressing opponents’ voices, facilitating the smuggling of fuel and other subsidized goods to neighboring Syria, and alienating oil-rich Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, who have stopped providing financial aid due to Hezbollah’s dominance in Lebanon.
The most serious allegation is that domestic opponents claimed that the organization carried hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate, which exploded in Beirut port last year, killing at least 214 people, injuring thousands and destroying parts of the capital.
There is no direct connection with Hezbollah, but unproven theories linking it to reserves abound. One theory is that Hezbollah imported these chemicals on behalf of the Syrian government. During the 10-year conflict in neighboring countries, the Syrian government used these chemicals for barrel bombs in areas controlled by the rebels.
“Hezbollah’s institutions are active in the port, the security agencies and all Lebanese know this. Why is Said Hassan Nasrallah not questioned?” Recently, the right-wing Christian Kataeb Party (Christian Kataeb Party) ) Asked the person in charge Samy Gemayel (Samy Gemayel).
Hezbollah has repeatedly denied any connection with ammonium nitrate. However, Nasrallah recently criticized the judge who led the investigation of the bombing, implying that he should be replaced, which further angered the families of the victims and other Lebanese. Nasrallah described Judge Tarek Bitar as “politicized” after accusing some lawmakers and former cabinet ministers allied with Hezbollah.
Sadek Naboulsi, a professor of political science at Lebanon University, said: “Someone is trying to make Hezbollah Satan and tarnish his image.” The professor associated with the organization accused Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel. Foreign forces, including the United States, are trying to incite internal conflicts between Lebanese Shiite and Sunni Muslim communities in order to weaken Hezbollah. He added that Hezbollah has overcome this pressure in the past and has become stronger.
In early August, the funeral of a militant was attacked by suspected Sunni gunmen at the southern entrance of Beirut, which was a severe test for Hezbollah. Three Hezbollah supporters were killed and 16 others were injured in the shooting in Harrard.
Hezbollah did not retaliate, but instead called on the Lebanese authorities to investigate the case.
Michael Young, editor of Diwan, the Carnegie Middle East Center blog, wrote: “More and more Lebanese are aware that the concept of a Lebanese state cannot coexist with powerful armed militias serving outside forces.”
Macaron said that after the crisis, Hezbollah will no longer be the same and must adapt to ensure long-term political survival.
“All they can do at this time is to limit the loss as much as possible,” he said.