Smuggling between Lebanon and neighboring Syria has intensified in recent weeks.
Smugglers have expanded their operations to include not only fuel, but livestock, vegetables and cosmetic surgery instruments and supplies.
The smugglers are active along the porous 375-km border between Lebanon and Syria.
The smugglers are taking advantage of the US Caesar Act that prevents companies from importing goods to Syria. They are also exploiting the difference in prices between Lebanon and Syria, especially imports that are not manufactured in Syria.
Security sources in eastern Lebanon told Asharq Al-Awsat that smugglers have expanded their operations beyond their known routes in northeastern Lebanon.
They have now resorted to uninhabited areas that stretch from Yanta to Wadi al-Ashaer, Shebaa-Bint Jinn in the South, Lebanon’s eastern mountain range, Qosaya, Ain Zabad, Nahle, Arsal, Flita and the northern Bekaa in Lebanon’s far northeast.
The source counted eleven illegal crossings that span 22 kms.
It said smuggling has been growing since the Lebanese army completed its operation against extremists on the border in 2017 and has now peaked.
Civilians blamed the lax security measures and Lebanese state’s inability in securing the entire border for the rise in illegal activity.
The army had closed three illegal crossings in the past and continues to monitor them.
The Lebanese Central Bank’s subsidizing of several basic goods in 2021 was a main factor in driving up the smuggling.
Lebanon last year faced a severe shortage in fuel due to the smuggling to Syria where it is sold for a higher price and smugglers gain a higher profit.
So far in 2022, the smuggling of fuel has not risen to the heights of 2021, but that could change with Damascus raising the price of a tank of gas from 1,100 to 2,500 Syrian pounds.
The smuggling of flour and bread has been felt in Lebanon where a shortage last week led to long queues at bakeries and rise in a packet of bread to 30,000 Lebanese pounds, or a dollar. The government has since addressed the crisis.
Cigarettes are also in high demand in Syria. Smugglers have been sending over Lebanese brands and merchants have started to price them in dollars. A packet could cost as much as half a dollar. Foreign brands are priced higher and are also available depending on the demand.
The smuggling also includes Lebanese oils given the rise in oil prices worldwide. Cosmetic surgery supplies, such as Botox shots and fillers, are also being smuggled because Syria is barred from importing them due to the Ceasar Act.