BEIRUT: Hezbollah drew fresh criticism on Monday from the streets and the political class over the crisis in Lebanon.
Angry residents blocked several roads in protest against the economic crisis. As the Lebanese pound’s value plummets, the country is also experiencing a major medicines shortage.
The process of forming a government headed by Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati is slowly coming to a stalemate.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah launched a broadside against the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, accusing him of taking stances that are no different than Israel’s.
In his Sunday sermon, Al-Rai stressed that “the decision of war or peace should be in the hands of the state exclusively,” calling for “a return to the 1949 Armistice Agreements and Lebanon’s neutrality.”
Hezbollah’s campaign against Al-Rai elicited counter-reactions from various political figures and numerous Christian religious and political entities.
Druze leader Walid Jumblatt tweeted on Monday: “What crime did Al-Rai commit when he mentioned the armistice agreement? It seems that it is forbidden to discuss anything outside of the opposition group’s discourse,” sarcastically adding: “A democratic atmosphere par excellence.”
Resigned MP Marwan Hamade accused Hezbollah of igniting tension on the southern border with Israel and slammed the group for its attack on the judicial investigator in the Beirut port explosion crime Judge Tarek Bitar.
Hamade addressed Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah: “Your graciousness has set us back 50 years.
“The balance of deterrence advocated by Hezbollah is a pretext for controlling Lebanon.”
Saydet Al-Jabal Gathering warned that “if this campaign (against Al-Rai) does not stop immediately, we will take action in several cities.”
Former MP Ahmed Fatfat told Arab News: “The Lebanese state is collapsing because there is a parallel state — the state of Hezbollah. It seems that we are now experiencing the Iraqi scenario, and even more.
“Hezbollah suggests that it has the ability to replace the state, but in fact, it has so far failed to do so. Its entourage suffers like all the Lebanese, due to Hezbollah’s practices that destroyed the state.”
He added: “Iran will not allow the formation of the government in Lebanon as long as the Iranian-US negotiations are ongoing.
“Nasrallah has, for the first time, admitted that there is no consensus over the resistance in Lebanon.
“This means that Hezbollah has lost supporters and stature, and its intimidation policy no longer works on people.
“The biggest evidence is that the families of the Beirut port victims carried a banner that read Iran Out on Aug. 4. People have other priorities now.”
Fatfat said that Hezbollah’s stances regarding medicine and fuel imports from Iran are mere propaganda.
“The Iranians did it once in Venezuela, but they took gold in exchange. Do they want to get their hands on the gold that is in the Lebanese Central Bank?”
Elsewhere, caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan — affiliated with Hezbollah — criticized “financial and political decision-makers.”
Hassan said in an interview on Sunday: “The Central Bank and drug importing companies are responsible for exposing the health system in Lebanon to grave danger.”
Hassan defended medicine imports from Iran.
“The Central Bank and the importing companies are responsible for every missing medicine,” said the minister.
“A decision to urgently import and register missing medicines has been taken; any medicine that meets the conditions and standards will be imported.”
Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah also tried to pressure the Central Bank on Monday, saying that the latter “is insisting on controlling the decision to lift subsidies on oil derivatives and medicines.”
Fadlallah said Hezbollah “is exerting efforts to expedite the import of fuel from Iran.”
Sidon, the third major Lebanese coastal city after Beirut and Tripoli, sank into complete darkness on Monday, amid demands to secure diesel fuel as soon as possible.
Lebanese cities continue to fall into darkness as private generator owners announce that they are running out of fuel in light of strict rationing by the Electricite du Liban.
The Lebanese are being supplied with an average of one hour a day of fuel, as the Central Bank has used up most of the foreign currency it needs to purchase fuel for state electricity.
There are over 3,500 private generators in Lebanon, with monthly bills for subscribers raised to more than 1.5 million Lebanese pounds ($992).
MP Michel Daher complained on Monday that he “receives hundreds of visits daily from patients who need missing medicines. When importers are asked, they say that the Ministry of Health prices unsubsidized medicines at the rate of 12,000 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, half the actual value of the black market rate, which prompted them to stop importing.”