Lebanon News

Hezbollah hospital expands despite U.S. sanctions

Nurses attend to a patient at the Rasoul al-Aazam Hospital during a ceremony held in the occasion of expanding the emergency department, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: A major Hezbollah-linked hospital announced the expansion of its intensive care and emergency ward Tuesday despite a cash crunch caused by threats of U.S. sanctions.

“There is a global campaign against anything called Hezbollah, its institutions and individuals who support it,” Mohammad Bashir, general director of Al-Rasoul al-Aazam Hospital, told The Daily Star after a ceremony to inaugurate the new wings.

Al-Rasoul al-Aazam Hospital, dubbed the “resistance hospital” and based in Burj al-Barajneh, has been a key institution for the densely populated southern suburbs, catering to some three quarters of a million residents.

The hospital has also treated many wounded fighters from Hezbollah, including those returning from Syria, and was key to handling many of the wounded in the bombings that targeted the southern suburbs over the last year.

The hospital’s expansion has been planned for years, Bashir said, and was unrelated to pressures caused by recent attacks.

Bashir, who said the institution is funded primarily by revenues from an increasing number of patients and payments by insurance companies, said residents flocked to the hospital because of its technical sophistication and religious atmosphere, which caters to more conservative patients.

But he said the hospital was having trouble securing cash. After borrowing from local Lebanese banks to finance various operations, the hospital found its accounts suddenly closed down.

“A while ago, without warning, these banks closed the accounts of the hospital with the excuse that they feared American threats to sanction banks that deal with institutions in the orbit of the resistance and Hezbollah,” he said.

The head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council, Sayyed Hashem Safieddine, attended the opening amid tight security measures and a contingent of Hezbollah security personnel.

Speaking at the hospital’s Imam Khomeini hall, Safieddine said the institution would have to remain patient and steadfast in the face of difficulties like sanctions, and downplayed their impact.

“It is natural to expect our enemies to try and undermine our work and movement, and they have worked to do so throughout the past decades and have failed, and they are failing today,” he said. “Nobody should worry at all.”

“Have they managed to limit the strength of the resistance and the sacrifices of this people?” he asked. “We must continue and progress and never stop our service.”

Safieddine reiterated in his speech some of Hezbollah’s positions on the ongoing paralysis in Lebanon’s institutions, saying the priority must be the “protection” of the country against threats sweeping the region, a veiled reference to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). Hezbollah claims that it is fighting alongside the regime of President Bashar Assad in Syria to protect Lebanon from fundamentalists.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 27, 2014, on page 4.




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