Defense Minister Benny Gantz has sent a proposal for humanitarian aid to Lebanon through UNIFIL, his ministry announced on Tuesday.
The move comes after Gantz has repeated several times in recent weeks that Israel is willing to offer assistance to its northeastern neighbor, which is suffering from a worsening economic crisis, with the World Bank calling it one of the world’s worst financial crises since the 1850s.
Violence and protests have been breaking out around the country as basic services collapse.
According to an assessment released by UNICEF on Monday, 77% of Lebanese households don’t have enough money to buy food. The country’s medicine importers have warned they have run out of hundreds of essential drugs. Electricity outages and gas shortages are commonplace and the Lebanese Armed Forces announced it is offering tourists helicopter rides for $150 to make money.
Gantz tweeted on Sunday: “As an Israeli, as a Jew and as a human being, my heart aches seeing the images of people going hungry on the streets of Lebanon. Israel has offered assistance to Lebanon in the past, and even today we are ready to act and to encourage other countries to extend a helping hand to Lebanon so that it will once again flourish and emerge from its state of crisis.”
In a speech on Sunday marking the opening of Israel’s first monument to the Southern Lebanon Army, which fought alongside the IDF during Israel’s presence in southern Lebanon from 1982 to 2000, Gantz offered assistance.
“Israel has offered to help Lebanon in the past, and today as well, we are prepared to work to help it grow and get out of this crisis,” he said.
On Tuesday, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the country is a few days away from a “social explosion,” and called on the international community to save it.
Diab, in a speech after a meeting with several ambassadors and representatives of diplomatic missions in Beirut, also said his government could not restart talks with the International Monetary Fund because only a new cabinet could do that.
“This government does not have the right to resume negotiations with the IMF to implement the recovery plan set by the cabinet, for this entails obligations on the next government that it may not endorse,” he said.
Lebanon has not responded to Gantz’s offers or the proposal sent to UNIFIL, but due to the long-standing enmity between the two sides, Beirut is expected to refuse the help.
After a huge explosion devastated Beirut last August, killing dozens and injuring thousands, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved humanitarian and medical assistance to Lebanon instructing the National Security Council to contact former UN special envoy for the Middle East peace process Nickolay Mladenov to find out how Israel could help.
Gantz and other Israeli officials reiterated Jerusalem’s offer for aid at the time, with hospitals in Haifa and the North saying they were ready to provide assistance, but Lebanon refused.
Reuters contributed to this report.