“Misery is now palpable across the country, in the rows of shuttered shops, in the garbage piling up in different neighborhoods as basic services are disrupted, and in the darkness of the nighttime streets of Beirut as electricity cuts soar to 20 hours a day.” One would think that this is a reasonable aftermath of the explosions that rocked Beirut only one short week ago. But, it isn’t. This was written by Lina Mounzer, a Lebanese writer and translator, in an article in the New York Times only one day before the explosion in Beirut. She continues: “[It] has become clear that there is nothing truly resilient about Lebanon except its politicians and ancient warlords, who refuse to step down, even after their profiteering has bankrupted the country and its people.”
The day after that article was published, Beirut, once dubbed the Paris of the Middle East, suffered a devastating series of explosions, with the last one looking much like an atomic blast. It needs to be seen.
Before the smoke settled, speculation about the blast was rampant. What happened, what caused it, why, who is responsible? Accusations of local causation and responsibility, as well as foreign intervention were quick to surface. And, of course, along with the finger-pointing were the denials and counter accusations.
When the dust did settle, the extent of the devastation became clear, but the consequences of the blast are still being discovered. At least 160 people died as a direct result of the massive explosion. Over 6,000 people were wounded and over 300,000 have been made homeless. As the numbers grew, so did the wave of public outrage at the government, along with massive demonstrations and clashes with government security forces. Now, one week after the crippling explosions and contrary to the claim in the NYTimes article that the Lebanese politicians “refuse to step down”, the harsh realities following the explosion in Beirut, the entire Lebanese government resigned.
Israel offered, through intermediaries, to provide humanitarian aid to Lebanon, but the offer was rejected. Lebanon’s antagonism towards Israel is greater than its desire to help its suffering population. Israel’s extended hand of help to save life was slapped away by political considerations motivated by hatred. Has the leadership of Lebanon forgotten the help that Israel has extended even to her enemies? What kind of heart and mind rejects an offer to help locate missing persons under the rubble of collapsed buildings, an offer of medical assistance, an offer of humanitarian aid for multitudes of injured and homeless? It boggles the mind to think that a government would rather see its people suffer and die than accept assistance from a country they want to keep as an enemy, even though that country could ease their suffering and help to keep them alive. An act of kindness could go a long way to help turn enemyship into friendship.
Are there answers to some of the questions about the explosion? In a reasoned article entitled What Really Happened at the Port of Beirut?, Lt. Col. (reserves) Dr. Mordechai Kedar, of The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA), concludes:
“What probably happened on August 4 was an explosion of volatile and flammable materials that were incorrectly stored by Hezbollah for at least a day in a metal, non-airconditioned warehouse. As it is midsummer, temperatures are very high. I believe missile-fuel fumes evaporated from a container and touched the hot wall or ceiling, where they ignited and caused a chain reaction of explosions.
“Less than an hour after the explosions, Hezbollah announced that the exploded material was ammonium nitrate. Hezbollah was the first to report it. The reason: Hezbollah was looking for a way to cover up its own negligence and establish an official version that deflected attention away from itself, because no one in the government would dare contradict them.
Since when do we take Nasrallah to be truthful?
The finger against Hezbollah finds widespread support, including an analysis by Zvi Yehezkeli, one of Israel’s top investigative reporters. Yehezkeli is fluent in Arabic and has reported from “behind the scenes”, having twice infiltrated Islamic groups in Europe to report on how the Islamic State and Muslim Brotherhood operate there. In a radio interview that took place four days after the massive blast, he stated: “I see Nasrallah (the General Secretary of the Hezbollah terrorist organization) as the main culprit and the main person responsible for holding and bringing this material, the ammonium nitrate to the port warehouses. As the person in charge of the port and the border crossings, that is what he is currently trying to evade.” When asked in the interview whether the ammonium nitrate was intended for use against Israel, Yehezkeli’s response was: “Certainly. This material is the most available material for semi-military and terrorist organizations to obtain top-level explosions. It is material that was supposed to be used against us in the Third Lebanon War.”
There is good reason for Yehezkeli’s comments. In a televised speech given on 16 February, 2016, Nasrallah threatened the Israeli ammonia storage facility in Haifa, claiming that a missile attack on the ammonia tanks would have the impact of a nuclear bomb, adding that this means that Lebanon has a nuclear bomb “this is no exaggeration” and such an attack on the Haifa ammonia facilities would potentially cause tens of thousands of deaths.
Israel’s Minister of Defense and Prime Minister in waiting, Benny Gantz, said that the Hezbollah was Lebanon’s biggest problem, as well as Israel’s biggest enemy to the north. He noted: “In Lebanon, in a house, there is a guest room and a missile room — in the same house! When that missile explodes, the guest room doesn’t stay whole, and the Lebanese civilian society will pay dearly. As a security network, we are fighting enemies that keep weapons and operate in civilian surroundings. If we don’t have a choice but to fight, it will have dire consequences”. Stated differently, the next war with Hezbollah will be a mess and will, in all likelihood, include our neighbor to the northeast, Syria.
With the resignation of the Lebanese government, the chaos generated by last week’s catastrophic explosions leaves the country in a crisis situation, significantly more severe than that which existed immediately prior to the devastation. This provides an opportunity for the Hezbollah to step in and pave the way for its patron, Iran, to exercise its influence over the country in ways that few have imagined. Lebanon may rise from the ashes, but what form will it take? The answer to this question is presently an unknown that Israel needs to prepare for – not an easy task when dealing with an enemy who has no morals and is sworn to our destruction. May God grant abundant wisdom to the leadership of our country and strengthen the arms of those who stand on the walls day and night to protect us from those who would seek to do us harm.
Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the LORD, and whose deeds are done in a dark place and they say, “Who sees us?” or “Who knows us?” (Isaiah 29:15)
No weapon that is formed against you will prosper. (Isaiah 54:17)
Remember: Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.