Thursday, 24 Sep 2020 - 6 of Tishri, 5781

Israel offers Lebanon humanitarian and medical aid following Beirut disaster

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Israeli President Reuven Rivlin: “We share the pain of the Lebanese people” • UNIFIL personnel wounded in the blast are to be treated in Tzfat.

Israeli officials said the country was not connected to the explosion in any way. Hezbollah also denied that the explosion was the result of an Israeli attack. They also denied that the site had been used to store weapons. However, there is Israeli media speculation that it was, at least in part, a Hezbollah weapons depot, possibly for their advanced precision-guided missiles.

By Lilach Shova and Ariel Kahana, Israel Hayom via JNS, and European Jewish Press

Israel has offered Lebanon humanitarian aid following a huge explosion in Beirut on Tuesday that killed at least 78 people and left more than 4,000 injured.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved medical and humanitarian aid to Lebanon, and has instructed National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat to speak with U.N. envoy Nickolay Mladenov to determine additional ways in which Israel can help, according to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman tweeted: “Humanitarian aid to Lebanon—now is the time to rise above any conflict.”

IDF Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee, head of the Arabic division of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, tweeted: “Under instructions from the defense minister and the foreign minister, Israel has reached out to Lebanon via international diplomatic officials and offered the Lebanese government medical humanitarian aid. Israel has much experience in these areas and has proven it by the humanitarian delegations it has sent throughout the world in recent years.”

Adraee echoed Zilberman’s call to “rise above any conflict.”

President Reuven Rivlin offered his condolences for the dead and injured. In a tweet that was posted in Arabic, Hebrew and English, Rivlin wrote: “We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time.

Meanwhile, Israel is making preparations to take in UNIFIL personnel wounded in the explosion. As of Tuesday evening, the plan was for the wounded U.N. force members to be taken to the border crossing at Rosh Hanikra and treated at Rebecca Sieff Hospital in Tzfat.

Independently, hospitals in the north of Israel offered to receive and treat Lebanese victims of the blast.  So far there has been no response from Lebanon.

Israeli Welfare Minister Itzik Shmuli tweeted: “The heart breaks at the difficult images coming out of Beirut. Our heart is with the Lebanese people at this difficult time and we will do everything we can to help. When tragedies like these happen, even the most tense border cannot make us forget that we’re all human beings.”

”This is the time to transcend the conflict,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tweeted.

Israel’s Defence Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi issued a joint statement to say that Israel approached Lebanon through international defence and diplomatic channels to offer the government humanitarian aid.

• If the Lebanese Government were to accept Israeli aid it would have the potential of dramatically changing the relationship between the two countries.

Israeli officials said the country was not connected to the explosion in any way. Hezbollah also denied that the explosion was the result of an Israeli attack. They also denied that the site had been used to store weapons. However, there is Israeli media speculation that it was, at least in part, a Hezbollah weapons depot, possibly for their advanced precision-guided missiles.

Although the cause of the blast is unclear, initial reports suggest an electrical fault ignited flammable materials in one warehouse that then caused fuel tanks in a nearby warehouse to explode. Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been stored unsafely in a warehouse for six years in the port.

The explosion further compounds Lebanon’s economic crisis, which has seen shortages in food and electricity, huge unemployment and daily protests.

The timing is also difficult for Hezbollah as this Friday the International Criminal Court is expected to announce its verdict into the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was killed 15 years ago. Many analysts have concluded that his murder was ordered by Syria and carried out by Hezbollah. Four Hezbollah activists are accused for the assassination.

The Beirut port is well known to the Israeli intelligence community. In October 2018 Israel exposed three Hezbollah sites in Beirut that were being used as factories for assembling precision-guided missiles, one of which was in the port (another was in a football stadium and a third near the airport). However, it was not the same location of yesterday’s explosion.

If the Lebanese government were to accept Israeli aid it would have the potential of dramatically changing the relationship between the two countries.

 Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is expected to make a speech later today. Israeli security analysts place a great deal of importance in his statements.

Israel remains on high alert on the Lebanese border and prepared to respond if Hezbollah does try to attack Israel again in retaliation for the death of one of its members in Syria in late July.

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