Israel offers Lebanon assistance after massive, deadly explosion in Beirut

by Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel has offered Lebanon humanitarian assistance after a massive explosion at Beirut’s waterfront killed at least 30 people and injured thousands.

Israel’s defense minister Benny Gantz announced the offer on Twitter. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli army and at least one Israeli hospital also offered aid.

Because Lebanon and Israel are still technically in a state of war, the offers are being extended through third-party diplomatic channels.

“Under the direction of Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel approached Lebanon through international defense and diplomatic channels to offer the Lebanese government medical humanitarian aid,” Gantz tweeted.

“This is the time to rise above any conflict,” tweeted the spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, Hidai Zilberman.

Initial reports said the blast was in a warehouse packed with explosives and may have been triggered by a fire. Videos posted to social media showed the forceful blast cutting a wide swath of damage across Beirut, and area hospitals have been overwhelmed with the injured.

The explosion comes as the country is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and an economic crisis that has accelerated unemployment and hunger.

Israeli authorities told multiple news organizations that the country had nothing to do with the disaster.

In recent years, Israel has assisted and received assistance from neighbors that were formerly enemies, or with whom it has difficult relations.

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