Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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Israeli involvement in massive Beirut port blast ruled out by both sides

The Times of Israel reports:

Massive blasts that struck Beirut were not caused by Israeli activity, sources in Lebanon and Jerusalem said Tuesday afternoon, as officials attempted to determine what sparked the huge explosions.

Lebanese officials indicated that an initial explosion was caused by fireworks stored at the port, and a second, even larger explosion may have been caused by the fire reaching explosive material that has been kept there for years.
The blasts came amid high tensions between Israel and Lebanon and hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a fresh warning to the Iran-backed terror group.

Senior Hezbollah officials told OTV Lebanon that social media rumors about an Israeli attack were false. [Continue reading…]

Faysal Itani writes:

Decades of rot at every level of Lebanon’s institutions destroyed Beirut’s port, much of the city, and far too many lives. It is precisely the banality behind the explosion that captures the particular punishment and humiliation heaped on Lebanon.

So far, Lebanese officials are in agreement about what happened, though it’s likely that more than one “official” account will emerge. After all, this is Lebanon, a country deeply divided by politics, religion and history. But here is what we know as of now, according to reporting by credible Lebanese media: Some 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate unloaded from a disabled vessel in 2014 had been stored in a port warehouse. Then yesterday, a welding accident ignited nearby fireworks — which caused the ammonium nitrate to explode.

Ports are prime real estate for political, criminal and militia factions. Multiple security agencies with different levels of competence (and different political allegiances) control various aspects of their operations. And recruitment in the civilian bureaucracy is dictated by political or sectarian quotas. There is a pervasive culture of negligence, petty corruption and blame-shifting endemic to the Lebanese bureaucracy, all overseen by a political class defined by its incompetence and contempt for the public good.

It’s unclear what combination of these elements let a bomb-in-waiting sit in a warehouse for almost six years, moved fireworks next to it and allowed irresponsible work practices to be carried out nearby. But the catastrophe, while exceptionally severe, is the result of business as usual in Lebanon. [Continue reading…]

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