Doubts over the health of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah

The secretary general of the Lebanese Shiite militia is reportedly in serious hospital after suffering a stroke, according to 'The Jerusalem Times'
Hassan Nasrallah

AP/HUSSEIN MALLA  -   Supporters of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group raise their fists and clap as they listen to a speech by leader Hassan Nasrallah

There are serious doubts about the health of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. The 62-year-old secretary-general of the Lebanese Shiite militia is reportedly in serious hospital after suffering a stroke, reports the Hebrew newspaper The Jerusalem Post. According to Saudi journalist Hussein al-Gawi and other Arab and Israeli media, the head of the terrorist group is currently in Beirut's Grand Prophet Hospital. 

Iran, the main ally of the so-called Party of God, to which it provides most of its weapons and funding, is said to have sent a medical team to Lebanon aboard a plane of the Persian airline Meraj to supervise his treatment. But Hezbollah and its related media outlets have been quick to deny the reports

Instead, they claim, Nasrallah has come down with the flu. Specifically, he is reportedly suffering from the influenza virus. 

This is not the first time that rumours have swirled around the health of the ever-controversial Nasrallah. In the summer of 2021, the Hezbollah leader reappeared publicly to admit that he had fallen ill with pneumonia and "seasonal allergies" after a televised speech in which he did not look good. At the time it was claimed that he had contracted COVID-19, but he used the speech to reject the reports outright.

His health is clearly not good, which is why he cancelled what was to be his last public appearance of the year last Friday. Nasrallah was scheduled to address his supporters in one of his regular televised speeches, but was unable to do so. 

In any case, the replacement for Abbas Al-Musawi, Hezbollah's second secretary-general, who was killed in an Israeli helicopter attack in February 1992, is scheduled to speak on Tuesday to commemorate the death of one of his closest associates, Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, the elite branch of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard, who was shot down by a US drone three years ago at Baghdad airport. 

Nasrallah, who holds no official position in Lebanon's damaged institutions, is in a delicate situation at the helm of Hezbollah. The organisation's political wing has proved unable to import goods from Iran in order to sell them at a discount to its supporters in Lebanon. Iran's financial problems, brought on by sanctions and exacerbated by the outbreak of the so-called veil revolution, are hitting Hezbollah's coffers hard.  

According to the US State Department's 2020 estimates, Tehran provides the group with some $700 million annually. But Hezbollah also receives hundreds of millions of dollars from legal companies, international criminal enterprises and the Lebanese diaspora abroad.

Desfile de Hizbulá en un suburbio del sur de la capital, Beirut, para conmemorar el Día Internacional de al-Quds (Jerusalén)
AFP/ANWAR AMRO  -   Hezbollah parade in a southern suburb of the capital Beirut to mark International al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day

Nasrallah, a charismatic figure among his own people, leads an organisation that is increasingly active in domestic politics. It also controls much of Lebanon's Shia-majority areas, including parts of Beirut, southern Lebanon and the eastern Bekaa Valley region. But it has recently come under fire from the international community following the killing of young Sean Rooney, an Irish member of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the UN contingent deployed in the country since 1978. 

The shooter who shot Rooney in southern Lebanon on 15 December, who was arrested hours after the incident, is linked to Hezbollah, but the organisation claimed he was a supporter and not a member. Although the Shia militia was allegedly involved in the capture and rendition of the assassin, the Irish foreign minister said he "does not accept" assurances that the Lebanese organisation was involved in the ambush on the vehicle.