רון בן ישי
Ron Ben-Yishai
Photo: Yair Sagi
The aftermath of the explosion in Beirut Port on Tuesday

After the disaster in Beirut, Hezbollah's challenges and Trump's misstep

Analysis: The explosion may cost Hezbollah politically but help Lebanon financially with international funding now free to flow; Trump's statement that it was caused by a bomb was irresponsible and harmful for Israel

Ron Ben-Yishai |
Published: 08.05.20 , 23:45
Lebanon is still reeling from shock and has not yet begun an investigation into the causes of the explosion in its Beirut's port on Tuesday, which had cost the lives of over 100 people and wounded many thousands.
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  • But even now there are two things that can be stated with confidence.
    The aftermath of the explosion in Beirut Port on Tuesday The aftermath of the explosion in Beirut Port on Tuesday
    The aftermath of the explosion in Beirut Port on Tuesday
    (Photo: Getty Images)
    The explosion in a warehouse containing 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate was the result of a succession of accidents and not an intentional act of sabotage, and it began with a fire in a petrol storage facility that ignited a warehouse full of firecrackers or some other inflammable substances and that had, in turn, caused the initial explosion that was then followed, some minutes later, by the ammonium nitrate blowing up.
    Ammonium nitrate is usually used in the production of fertilizer, for agriculture, but it is not a stable material and is explosive under certain circumstances such as extreme heat. A small explosion nearby can trigger the massive event that we've witnessed.
    נזקים לאחר הפיצוץ בביירותנזקים לאחר הפיצוץ בביירות
    The aftermath of the explosion in Beirut Port on Tuesday
    (Photo: AFP)
    The fact that Israel was not involved in the tragedy is supported not by the statements of its leaders but by its Modus Operandi (MO) in the past in covert operations as well as out in the open.
    In its policy, Israel conducts its "war between wars," with careful consideration to minimize collateral damage, especially to civilians. In most of its actions, Israel has attempted to target Iranians or Palestinians terror operatives when it attacked weapons caches.
    The reason for that policy is the understanding that direct targeting of civilians increases motivations for revenge that could deteriorate to an all-out war, and that is what Israel, as a strategy tries to avoid.
    The proof is in the footage. The explosion began with a simple fire that spread uncontrollably to other parts of the port.
    Israel is motivated to target Hezbollah's precise missile production lines in Lebanon but as far as it is known, no such facilities were situated inside the port of Beirut where many foreigners are often present. In addition, destroying such targets would not have been carried out by starting a fire.
    נזקים לאחר הפיצוץ בביירותנזקים לאחר הפיצוץ בביירות
    The aftermath of the explosion in Beirut Port on Tuesday
    Beirut's residence, once they overcome the initial shock will be salvaging what they can and looking for shelter, They will be too busy to resume their anti-government protests in a city that had already been in a desperate condition before Wednesday's explosion, because of Lebanon's isolation and dire economic troubles compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.
    In the rural unaffected areas, life will likely continue as always though many more Lebanese will probably be seeking a future elsewhere, overseas, while many residents of the city would be looking for alternative housing in the countryside.
    This disaster may even alleviate some of the country's economic trouble now that the World Bank and some European countries have already pledged their assistance after withholding aid to the Lebanese government in compliance with U.S. sanctions and because it was seen as corrupt and under the control of Hezbollah.
     נזקים לאחר הפיצוץ בביירות נזקים לאחר הפיצוץ בביירות
    The aftermath of the explosion in Beirut Port on Tuesday
    France and other contributing countries would likely approve 11 billion dollars requested by the Beirut government. French President Emmanuel Macron already announced he would be traveling to the destroyed city on Thursday.
    Perhaps the American administration will remove its object to assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). If they do, Lebanon could avoid the bankruptcy it is now facing provided the corrupt leadership keeps its hands off the funds.
    Absurdly, the disaster could bring the Middle Eastern country into the fold of the West and away from Iran's influence because Hezbollah would not be in a position to reject assistance from western powers.
    After the tragedy, Hezbollah will be trying to appear a protector of the country bringing the organizational and capabilities – developed in anticipation of a war with Israel, into play by providing immediate medical, logistical, and even financial assistance for the victims.
     נזקים לאחר הפיצוץ בביירות נזקים לאחר הפיצוץ בביירות
    The aftermath of the explosion in Beirut Port on Tuesday
    The organization and its leader Hassan Nasrallah, likely understand this is the wrong time to provoke Israel by avenging the death of its operative in Syria last week in an attack attributed to the IDF.
    Despite its hold on Lebanese politics, Hezbollah understands that the Shi'ite population in the rural areas of the country would never forgive the terror organization if it were to implicate their country in a war at this time.
    There is no doubt in South Lebanon and in the capital about Israel's preparedness to respond to any aggression as demonstrated by the latest Israeli attack in Syria, and Nasrallah would not risk the political ramifications certain to come if he were to cause an outbreak of violence.
    Still, the IDF must remain vigilant.
    Hezbollah stands to suffer politically in the near future because the organization has been storing its weapons, explosives and missiles, inside Lebanon's cities. The explosion in the port of Beirut could prompt demands that these arms depose be removed from civilian areas, chosen in order to protect them from Israeli attack.
    Such calls would be made quietly at first but could increase and risk Hezbollah's practice to hide its military assets among civilians.
    Iran may benefit from Beirut's disaster. It had already offered its assistance and shipments are already on their way and will arrive by air and by sea. But they may also include components needed for the missile production lines that have been difficult to supply through Syria.
     נזקים לאחר הפיצוץ בביירות נזקים לאחר הפיצוץ בביירות
    The aftermath of the explosion in Beirut Port on Tuesday
    (Photo: AFP)
    Iran can easily hide these components that could quickly upgrade the precise missile production. It is also set to send oil and a ship containing a power station, all while avoiding U.S. sanctions.
    U.S. President Donald Trump offered American assistance but was incredibly irresponsible, and there is no kinder way to describe it - when he announced the explosion was caused by an attack or "a bomb of some kind," relying on un-named generals. In other words, he blamed Israel and undermined the Israeli government's statements to the contrary.
    Trump did not name Israel, but there is a close alliance between the two countries and often information regarding Israeli covert operations had come from American intelligence sources and not out of Israel.
    Trump caused incredible damage to Israel with his rash and unfounded statement. Sources were at a loss to explain what the president was basing it on.
    On the other hand, Israel's offer of help has practical significance. Israel can help the Lebanese people despite the state of war that exists between the two countries.
    It could help with the evacuation of the U.N. and other foreign personnel from the disaster area by air or sea for medical treatment in Israel. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Israeli neurosurgeons and experts in the treatment of burns are available to provide life -saving treatments.
    נזקים לאחר הפיצוץ בביירותנזקים לאחר הפיצוץ בביירות
    The aftermath of the explosion in Beirut Port on Tuesday
    (Photo: AFP)
    It can also provide medical equipment, tents and water purification technology for a city now cut off from electricity and with destroyed sanitation facilities.
    Israel can also set up a field hospital near the border, inside Israeli territory to treat the injured who could be transported by the U.N. Such a hospital was erected near the border with Syria during the civil war there, and many Syrian civilians received treatment by Israeli doctors. The IDF has the experience and the tools needed to calm any security concerns.
    You cannot discuss a calamity of such a proportion in Beirut without wondering if it could happen in Israel as well.
    Even in Haifa, where there is a concentration of petrochemical industrial plants, the possibility of such an event is far lower than it ever was in Beirut.
    These installations are much better protected and operate under strict security standards. Still, their presence in a populated city is dangerous.
    Public pressure should be put to bear on the government to remove these industrial sites out of cities and away from civilians.

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