JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel is putting aside hostilities with Lebanon and offering humanitarian aid to the country after a catastrophic explosion Tuesday evening wreaked havoc on Beirut, killing dozens and injuring thousands.
“We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time,” said Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he instructed the head of Israel’s National Security Council to speak with the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov to discuss how the Jewish State can help Lebanon.
“Israel approached Lebanon through international defense and diplomatic channels to offer the Lebanese government medical humanitarian aid,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said in a joint statement.
Although Israel and Lebanon are enemies in times of war, the Israel Defense Forces said “this is the time to transcend conflict.”
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Lebanon is not expected to accept the aid offer, but Iran has offered to help.
Lebanon is home to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror group, which Israel fought a bloody war against in 2006.
Tensions between Israel and Hezbollah have spiked in recent days after the IDF said it thwarted an attempted infiltration attempt by the terror group. Hezbollah denies its men were involved in the incident, but has threatened to attack the Jewish State after it said one of its fighters was killed in an airstrike in Syria last month.
Israel said it was not responsible for the explosion in Beirut.
The blast killed at least 100 people and more than 4,000 were wounded. Officials from the Lebanese Red Cross expect the toll to rise. Windows shattered, people were sent flying through the air, and towering silos crumbled.
It is unclear what caused the explosion at the port, which appeared to have been triggered by a fire. Local TV initially reported that a fireworks warehouse was involved.
Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi told a local television station that it appeared the blast was caused by the detonation of more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate that was being stored in a warehouse at the port after it was confiscated from a cargo ship in 2014.
Witnesses reported seeing an orange cloud of what appeared to be toxic nitrogen dioxide gas after the explosion.
The tragedy comes at a time when Lebanon is in complete turmoil. The blast that destroyed homes will potentially leave many Lebanese homeless while the country is on the brink of economic collapse. Many have no jobs and no savings due to the tiny nation’s devastating currency crisis.
Citizens have held mass protests since last fall calling for sweeping political change, but the economic crisis only got worse.
The port where the explosion happened is where Lebanon imports nearly all of its vital goods. There are concerns that food shortages will be exacerbated and estimates suggest some 85% of the country’s grain was stored in the now-destroyed silos.
Lebanon’s prime minister said Tuesday those responsible for the blast will “pay the price.”
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