It's hardly new to see Noah Zaiter in Arabic headlines, but this week the Lebanese drug dealer's showing up all over social media for a reason most people didn't expect.
While he's a notorious figure for the Lebanese, it's less likely you've heard of him in English news. Here's an older video of the cowboy hat-clad trafficker.
He's the leader of the country's most powerful drug family, with marijuana farms lining the country's fertile — and lately war-torn — Bekaa Valley. Zaiter is believed to bring in so much profit from his operations, he once famously said "make marijuana and hashish legal for six months and I'll pay down all government debt."
And looser regultion by Lenanese authorities during five years of war in neighboring Syria has only made his empire stronger.
That's why no one really knew what to think when the drug trafficker appeared rubbing shoulders with Hezbollah fighters in Zabadani his week.
Arabic websites in Lebanon posted images Monday purporting to show Zaiter alongside the Shiite militia group in Syria's Zabadani, where fierce fighting between rebel groups and the Syrian army and Hezbollah fighters grinded into its third month at the beginning of September.
One Arabic channel reportedly featured a video clip alongside the images in which Zaiter is seen sitting with other fighters, declaring that “during the next hours the Zabadni area will be restored to Hezbollah."
The story got even weirder Tuesday, when the militia group released a statement of their own denying any relation to Zaiter. Here's the English translation:
After some websites posted images of Noah Zaiter in a military location with individuals wearing military clothes, Hezbollah media office would like to point out that the posted images does not belong to any Hezbollah soldier, and that the party has no relation to [the photos] at all.
Then Zaiter shot back with proof of his own, uploading more images of himself with uniformed men he claimed were Hezbollah leaders in Zabadani. Here are the retweets.
انتشار واسع لصور تاجر المخدرات نوح زعيتر في جبهات قتال حزب الله.الحزب نفى و#زعيتر رد بنشر المزيد من الصور مع القيادات pic.twitter.com/MA9pIM5eHP— وسيلة عولمي (@wassilaoulmi) September 14, 2015
Zaiter is wanted by authorities for around 100 drug counts back in Lebanon. His name has become commonplace among locals in that capacity, but hearing about him on the frontlines of Zabadani with Hezbollah is a new one.
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