Expressions of condolences have poured to Lebanon in from across the world, after its capital, Beirut, was rocked by a massive explosion that killed at least 100 and injured over 4,000 others on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab called on “friendly countries” to support a country already facing its worst economic turmoil in years, amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his “deepest condolences … following the horrific explosions in Beirut,” adding that United Nations (UN) staff were among the injured.
Moreover, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan also expressed his sympathy for the victims on Twitter.
“Deeply pained to hear of the massive explosions in Beirut, with precious lives lost and thousands injured,” he wrote. “We stand in solidarity with our Lebanese brethren in their difficult hour, sharing their sorrow and grief. May Allah grant speedy recovery to the injured & strength to the bereaved.”
Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that he has instructed the country’s National Security Council (NSC) head, Meir Ben-Shabbat, to speak to the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process to clarify how Israel can further assist Lebanon.
The director of a hospital in northern Israel has also offered to help treat the victims. Speaking in Arabic on Army Radio on Wednesday, Head of the Galilee Medical Centre in Nahayira, Dr Masad Brahoum said, “We only want to give a helping hand. Whoever comes will get treatment and will leave healthy and whole.”
However, Israel and Lebanon do not hold diplomatic relations, and Lebanese officials have rejected an official Israeli offer to send humanitarian aid, saying, “We do not take aid from an enemy state.”
Meanwhile, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani also offered to send medical aid and to treat the injured.
“Iran announces its readiness to send medical aid to Lebanon and also offers treatment of the injured and other necessary medical assistance,” Rouhani said. “We hope that the circumstances of this incident will be determined as soon as possible and that peace will return to Beirut.”
Iran-backed Lebanese Shi’ite group, Hezbollah, said it did not believe Israeli rocket attacks were behind the blast, while the Israeli military also denied involvement in the explosion.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Diab later said that the second, larger explosion had been caused by a large stockpile of ammonium nitrate, a volatile chemical with many uses ranging from agricultural fertiliser to bomb-making.
US President Donald Trump offered his condolences and said the US stood ready to assist Lebanon. He also indicated, however, that his generals “seem to feel” the massive explosion was a “terrible attack” of some kind.
“It would seem like it was based on an explosion. I met with some of our great generals and they just seem to feel it was,” Trump claimed. “This was not … some kind of a manufacturing explosion type of an event. … They seem to think it was an attack. It was a bomb of some kind, yes.”
Trump’s comments were issued at a similar time to Lebanese updates on the large stockpile of ammonium nitrate, potentially explaining the apparent contradiction. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US was monitoring the situation.
British officials, however, said that it was too early to speculate on the cause of the blast.
“The Lebanese authorities are, of course, investigating the cause of that tragedy, and before we have the results of that inquiry it is premature to speculate,” the UK’s Junior Education Minister, Nick Gibb, told the Sky News Channel.
France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, issued tweets in French and then in Arabic, saying, “I express my brotherly solidarity with the Lebanese people after the explosion.”
Macron added that French aid and resources had already been dispatched to Beirut, with French peacekeepers stationed in Lebanon also helping in the aftermath of the blast. France is expected to send two planes with dozens of emergency workers, a mobile medical unit and 15 tonnes of aid to Beirut, which should allow for the treatment of about 500 victims.
European Council President Charles Michel said the EU “stands ready to provide assistance and support”. The European Commission tweeted that its emergency response coordination centre had activated a rapid mapping service to support local authorities.
Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said Lebanon has accepted an offer from the Eastern European country of 37 rescuers with sniffer dogs, while Denmark said it was ready to provide humanitarian assistance. Greece has said it is ready to help authorities “with all means at its disposal”.
Jordan’s Royal Court has said a military field hospital, including all necessary personnel, will be dispatched to Beirut, with Egypt also having opened a field hospital to receive the wounded.
Russian president Vladimir Putin sent a telegram to his Lebanese counterpart offering condolences for the loss of life from the blast. Russian emergency officials later pledged to send five planeloads of aid to Beirut, while the Ministry for Emergency Situations said it will send rescuers, medical workers, a makeshift hospital and a lab for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing to Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Germany’s Federal Foreign Office said that employees of its embassy in Lebanon were among those injured by the blast. Germany said that it was checking what help it could offer immediately.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the pictures from Beirut were “shocking” and that the UK would offer help, including to British nationals affected by the blast.