Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Hezbollah terrorist organization, announced that a fuel tanker would leave Iran for Lebanon Thursday afternoon in a direct challenge to Israel and the US.
“The vessel, from the moment it sails in the coming hours until it enters [Mediterranean] waters, will be considered Lebanese territory,” Nasrallah said in a televised address. “To the Americans and Israelis, I say: it’s Lebanese territory.”
The move violates American sanctions on Iran's oil industry, and challenges Israel, which has allegedly been engaged in a battle over the seas with Iran.
According to Nasrallah, the tanker was coming to address Lebanon's fuel shortage, and would provide fuel to serve “hospitals, manufacturers of medicine and food, as well as bakeries and private generators.”
The governments of Lebanon and Iran have not confirmed Nasrallah's report about the tanker. In addition, it is unclear how the vessel would reach Lebanon from Iran.
Israel and Iran have been engaged in a shadow war on the high seas since February. In the most recent incident, Iranian-backed forces attacked an Israeli-managed ship with a drone, killing two crewmembers. The victims were not Israeli, but Romanian and British citizens.
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri warned that Nasrallah's speech could drag Lebanon, which is facing economic collapse, into another conflict.
“Iranian vessels will carry additional dangers and sanctions for the Lebanese people," Hariri said.