Syria to send Lebanon oxygen supply for hospitals

BEIRUT (AP) – The government of war-torn Syria said on Wednesday it will send emergency oxygen supplies to neighbouring Lebanon, which has experienced shortages amid a surge of coronavirus infections in both countries.

The gesture comes as the healthcare sectors of the neighbouring countries face serious challenges compounded by the pandemic and unprecedented economic woes.

Lebanon Health Minister Hamad Hassan told Lebanon’s al-Manar TV the oxygen was a “direct gift” from Syrian President Bashar Assad, who responded to Lebanon’s humanitarian request for the oxygen.

Syria’s healthcare infrastructure has been battered by a 10-year war and dependency on foreign aid as Assad’s government faces growing Western sanctions.

For Lebanon, Syria’s gesture comes at a time of political deadlock among rival groups who are deeply divided over Syria. Hassan is allied with the Iran-backed Hezbollah group, which has been a main backer of Assad.

Syrian Health Minister Hassan Ghabbash said his visiting Lebanese counterpart would depart Damascus with the first batch of oxygen from Syrian plants.

The amount going to Lebanon, reported to be 75 tonnes by Syrian media, won’t impact needs in Syria, he said.