Dozens killed, thousands injured after fireworks factory detonates in the Lebanese capital.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Israel offered Lebanon civilian aid hours after an enormous explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday evening, killing over a hundred and injuring thousands.
“Israel has approached Lebanon through international security and diplomatic channels and has offered the Lebanese government medical and humanitarian assistance,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said in joint statement.
The death toll from the blast, deemed an accident so far by Lebanese officials, is over 100 with 4,000 injured. This number is almost sure to rise as rescue personnel comb through wreckage at the port area – ground zero for the explosion.
Israeli officials have proposed sending medical supplies, possibly through the UNIFIL forces stationed in southern Lebanon at Israel’s northern border. They have also offered to treat some of the injured in Israeli hospitals.
The officials also made sure to distance themselves from any responsibility for the explosion. The need for a firm denial arose since the tension on the northern border has been high in recent days, following a foiled Hezbollah infiltration attempt on July 27.
The Iranian-backed terror organization is an integral part of the Lebanese government, and Jerusalem has often warned that if Hezbollah begins open hostilities with the Jewish state, the IDF would target Lebanese infrastructure in retaliation.
A Ynet report cited Lebanon’s head of the General Security service as speculating that the cause of the blast may have been a “highly explosive material” that had been impounded six years ago from an unnamed ship and stored at the port.
Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan said that there were two explosions. First a ship containing flammable material reportedly detonated, and then the factory blew apart.
This would accord with the video of the blast, which showed a small plume of smoke first rise into the air, followed very quickly by a huge mushroom cloud accompanied by a roar of noise and a visible shockwave.
Despite the lack of diplomatic relations between the countries, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin sent condolences in the name of the Israeli people.
“We share in the pain of the Lebanese people in its hour of tragedy and sincerely reach out our hand to help at this difficult time,” Rivlin tweeted at 10:40 pm.
His statement aroused controversy on the social media site, as some commented approvingly while others disagreed.
Critics cited reasons ranging from the fact that Lebanon is an enemy country from which Hezbollah forces continually threaten Israel with terrorist acts to the need for Israel to deal with its own Covid-related problems first.
Coincidentally, Prof. Eyal Zisser of Tel Aviv University, writing in Israel Hayom on Tuesday, said that Israel should cease distinguishing between Lebanon the country and Hezbollah the terror organization as the two are inextricably linked.