Israel stands ready to assist Lebanon and help it through its current crisis, Israel’s defense minister said on Sunday.

Speaking at the inauguration near Metula of a monument to the fallen soldiers of the Southern Lebanese Army, Benny Gantz said that Israel had offered assistance to Lebanon in the past, and was ready to do so again 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,” said Gantz.

Lebanon is in the midst of a severe economic crisis, with shortages of fuel, medicine and basic goods. The Lebanese currency is foundering and banks have moved to restrict withdrawals and transfers.

“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,” said Gantz.

The crisis, which began in late 2019, is blamed by many in Lebanon on corruption and mismanagement by the political class.

Gantz said Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah shoulders part of the blame for the crisis, which he said it is using as cover to take over the country.

“We see attempts to increase the interference of Iran in Lebanon and to carry out a kind of quiet revolution. Step-by-step, Iranian organizations and Iranian investments are entered into Lebanon and with them attempts to insert weapons and a radical ideology,” said Gantz.

Israel left Lebanon with the goal of ending the conflict with its northern neighbor, said Gantz, adding, “If not for Hezbollah and those who sent it, I believe we would already have arrived at peace.”

Israel abandoned a security zone it created in Lebanon’s south in 2000. The area, established in 1985 and about 10 kilometers (6 miles) in depth, was meant as a buffer zone between Israel and Lebanon-based Palestinian terrorists acting against Israel’s northern communities.

During Sunday’s ceremony, Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi distributed campaign medals to SLA veteran commanders who fought with IDF soldiers. In the days following the ceremony, SLA commanders will award battle medals to SLA soldiers.

JNS

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