Israel has offered humanitarian assistance to Lebanon after a massive explosion rocked its capital Beirut on Tuesday, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said.
The blast killed at least 67 people, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. Some 2,700 were injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said. The sudden devastation overwhelmed a country already struggling with both the coronavirus pandemic and an economic crisis.
"Israel has approached Lebanon through international security and diplomatic channels and has offered the Lebanese government medical and humanitarian assistance," a written statement from Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said.
According to Israeli officials, the offer was made through the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, UN and France. Israel is said to have offered medical supplies and an option of treating some of the wounded, including UNIFIL workers, in Israeli hospitals.
President Reuven Rivlin also expressed his condolences. "We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time," he said.
The incident comes during tension between Lebanese terror group Hezbollah and Israel. Senior Israeli officials said following the incident the country is not connected to the blast.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said Britain stood ready to provide any support it could to help Beirut. "The pictures and videos from Beirut tonight are shocking," Johnson wrote on Twitter. "All of my thoughts and prayers are with those caught up in this terrible incident.
"The UK is ready to provide support in any way we can, including to those British nationals affected."
The U.S. State Department said it is ready to offer 'all possible assistance', a spokesperson for the agency said.
The Department has no information about the cause of the explosion, the spokesperson said and added that the agency is working closely with local authorities to determine if any U.S. citizens were affected in the incident.
Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry said on Tuesday that it is following with great concern the consequences of the explosion, according to the state news agency. The statement also affirmed the kingdom's full support and solidarity with the Lebanese people.
The cause of the blast, which sparked fires, overturned cars and blew out windows and doors, was not immediately known. Abbas Ibrahim, chief of Lebanese General Security, said it might have been caused by highly explosive material that was confiscated from a ship some time ago and stored at the port. Local television channel LBC said the material was sodium nitrate.
First published: 22:43, 08.04.20