Beirut public blames Hezbollah post-explosion

Beirut demonstrators hung an effigy of Hezbollah party leader Hassan Nasrallah.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

After last week’s massive explosion at the port of Beirut that killed at least 158 people, wounded around 6,000, and left hundreds of businesses destroyed, Hezbollah has tried to distance itself from blame for the blast.

Despite a speech by party leader Hassan Nasrallah on Friday, in which he said Hezbollah had no knowledge of the ammonium nitrate stored at the port, Beirut locals took to the streets to demand that Hezbollah be held accountable.

“We have nothing in the port, no ammunition, no missiles and no cargo,” said Nasrallah, who then shifted his speech towards Israel. “We know more about what is happening in the port of Haifa than in Beirut. That’s our job.”

Protesters marched on Saturday with a cardboard cutout of Nasrallah, a noose around his neck. Other cardboard cutouts symbolically hung by the protesters included the likenesses of Prime Minister Hassan Diab, President Michel Aoun, and Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri.

“If you want to start a battle against the resistance [Hezbollah] over this incident, you will get no results,” said Nasrallah.

“The resistance, with its strength and patriotism, is greater and bigger and stronger than to be hit by those liars who want to push and provoke for civil war. They will fail and they will always fail.”

While some Lebanese are blaming Hezbollah for the explosion, Israeli intelligence officials have expressed concern that the incident may strengthen the terror group.

Public anger towards the Lebanese government could mean a large number of career politicians will be forced to leave office, creating a power vacuum that could serve as an opportunity for Hezbollah to strengthen its grip on the nation.

Some Lebanese commentators have called for an international investigation into the incident, citing rampant government corruption.

“People are so disillusioned that any results from an investigation carried out by the Lebanese authorities will not be taken seriously and will not be credible in the eyes of the Lebanese public,” said Aya Majzoub, a Beirut resident and human rights campaigner to As It Happens.

“We are calling for an independent investigation with international experts,” she said. “Anything short of this will fail to get the trust and credibility the investigation needs.”

Nasrallah and President Aoun have both spoken out against the possibility of an independent investigation by a third party into the origin of the blast.

Meanwhile, thousands of protesters attempted to storm the parliament building, but were stopped by security forces. Later, demonstrators led by a group of former senior Lebanese military officials successfully broke into the Foreign Ministry and destroyed portraits of President Aoun.

Other protesters stormed the Lebanon Banks Association headquarters and the offices belonging to the Ministries of Economy and Energy.

Euronews reported that the Foreign Ministry takeover, broadcast live on local news channels, featured a speech by Sami Rammah, a former career officer in the Lebanese army.

“We are taking over the Foreign Ministry as the new headquarters of the revolution,” said Rammah, standing on the building’s front steps and speaking to the media via a loudspeaker.

“We call on all the anguished Lebanese people to take to the streets to demand the prosecution of all the corrupt [officials].”