Now the Blasts in Beirut
Amb Anil Trigunayat, Distinguished Fellow, VIF

On 04 August twin blasts rocked the Beirut skyline shattering the buildings and property around. The sound of the blasts was heard in Cyprus some 200 Kms away. According to the Lebanese authorities 78 people were killed and over 4000 injured and the counts may unfortunately rise as the rubble is cleaned. Lebanese government is already embattled by Covid-19 surge and continued economic down turn as well as public discontent and demonstrations for months together. This disaster added to the plight. Prime Minister Hassan Diab claimed that 2750 tons of Ammonium Nitrate was stored in the Port for the last six years that exploded on August 4. General Fahmy, Interior Minister said the prima facie the highly explosive materials confiscated 6 years ago from a ship exploded at Ward 12 and urged for the investigations to be completed. Although no claims or immediate accusations have been made, Diab asked for assistance from brotherly and friendly countries. He added that those responsible for the “Beirut Catastrophe” will be held to account.

The conspiracy theorists and the on-going fight and turf battle between Hezbollah/Iran and Israel led some to believe that since the Port was under the control of Hezbollah the Israeli handiwork could not be discounted. For the last month and half their benefactor Iran has witnessed dozens of mysterious explosions at its nuclear component and other strategic sites. They justify that such huge quantity of highly explosive material could as well be used and most likely against Israel. Some onlookers even claimed to have seen some plane overhead before the explosions. Israel, however, denied any connection to the blasts stating that Israel has nothing to do with blasts in Beirut.

French President Macron and the closest western ally of Lebanon said that they will be sending a civil security detachment and 70 tonnes of medical equipment. Macron tweeted that France is engaged and the emergency doctors are being sent to Beirut to help. US Secretary of State Pompeo expressed his condolences and hoped to see the result of investigations for the cause of the explosions “We are closely monitoring and stand ready to assist the people of Lebanon as they recover from this tragedy. Our team in Beirut has reported to me the extensive damage to a city and a people that I hold dear, an additional challenge in a time of already deep crisis.” 1 For the US, Hezbollah is not only a terrorist organisation but an anathema to their and Israeli interests because of the Iranian custodianship of the Hezbollah “Army of God”. Several regional and world leaders also expressed condolences and messages of support for the Lebanese people. King Abdullah II of Jordan has decided to send a military field hospital with all medical supplies to Beirut.

Israel has been targeting Hezbollah and vice versa that has been recently accentuated since July 20 when a Hezbollah militant was killed by an Israeli air strike in Syria. This led to Hezbollah again vowing retaliation and hence heightened tension on the northern border. A week later Israeli Army opened fire at the famous Sheeba farms as it suspected some Hezbollah fighters were trying to infiltrate to mount an attack. But as per local reports this was not to kill them as neither side wanted to escalate tensions. If this postulation holds any ground one would have to consider whether the Israelis would carry out such a massive attack leading to the most powerful non-nuclear explosion since 1983 “ironically also in Beirut when militants destroyed the US marine barracks besides Beirut airport” says Nicholas Blanford of the Atlantic Council in a hastily filed report from Beirut. Well no one can say for sure how it transpired because violence is routine and the real power proxy game has been played out in the unfortunate country for decades now.

Lebanon has been asking for the continuation of the presence of UNIFIL as essential. PM Diab called it a “the continued presence of the UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon is an international need before being a Lebanese demand. The presence of these forces, according to the role assigned to them, is now necessary to prevent tension and redress any danger looming at the borders as a result of Israeli violations”2. There is some difference with the US on its scope as it wants to expand it to include searching of homes and properties in southern towns. For the Lebanese it might be a violation of constitutional rights of the citizens. President Aoun reiterated that “Our adherence to it is only surpassed by our attachment to public freedoms and full Lebanese sovereignty”. As such the US Ambassador has been in host of controversy when she criticised Hezbollah on a local TV channel.

Prime Minister Modi tweeted his condolences “Shocked and saddened by the large explosion in Beirut city leading to loss of life and property. Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families and the injured “Indian Ambassador Suhel Khan also promptly reported the incident and offered all assistance to the Indians in the city. Although no casualties of Indians were reported as yet a personal friend and a noted journalist Anchal Vohra got injured and tweeted “Explosion. Govt says. Lebanon bombed. My house bombed. I am bleeding. At the hospital, finally”.

India and Lebanon enjoy historic ties and one of the few countries which retained their diplomatic mission during the Lebanese Civil War from 1975 to 1990. We have also deployed Indian battalion (INDBATT) as part of the UNIFIL since 1998 and are held in high esteem. India regularly provides humanitarian and capacity building assistance to Lebanon. In this hour of crisis too we mourn with them.


(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

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