Rajeh Khoury

Destroying Lebanon’s Kidnapped Heart!

It was back on February 16, 2016, when Hassan Nasrallah, attempting to strike fear in Israel during a speech on “an undefeatable resistance”, declared that a few of his rockets could strike ammonium nitrate stockpiles at Haifa port. He said that the attack would produce a nuclear-like bomb and strike an area of 800,000 inhabitants and kill tens of thousands of people. Less than a week later, Israel reportedly moved these stockpiles to farther locations.

The corrupt Lebanese political system that has been in power since that time neglected or failed to remember that a similar ammonium nitrate shipment - a ticking nuclear timebomb that could demolish the capital - was lying in Beirut port.

The third most powerful blast after Hiroshima slaughtered Beirut, the city of cities. It did not just wipe out the port, but it left behind massive devastation, killing at least 170 people and wounding more than 5,000. The number of missing is still unclear. The blast created a nuclear mushroom cloud that cracked buildings kilometers away, destroyed homes and displaced 300,000 people. Horrific footage showed people being thrown hundreds of meters in the air, before plummeting to their terrible deaths.

The main question remains and that is being asked by all Lebanese, why didn’t this horrifying blast uproot the entire criminal political system? Regardless of the cause of the explosion, which is stirring much debate and will stir even more in the future, this class is responsible for this terrifying catastrophe, which has awakened the entire world to the plight of an international victim called Lebanon. This is why everyone has clamored to the immediate aid of a country that is bleeding and can no longer afford the price of bread.

The Lebanese people have been preoccupied with this question from the moment this catastrophe took place. At the same time, we witnessed what can be described as beyond scandalous a government meeting where arguments, the trading of blame and the shirking of responsibility prevailed.

To compare, just as French President Emmanuel Macron was landing in Beirut on Thursday – despite all the silly accusations made by Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab against French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, which led to the resignation of Lebanon’s FM Nassif Hitti – news was emerging that French Prime Minister jean Castex was preparing to host a meeting in Paris for concerned ministers to help Lebanon rise up from this tragedy and draft a long-term plan to aid the country. Did any Lebanese official head to the site of the disaster to inspect the scene like Macron, who made sure to visit the port and stricken capital before meeting officials?

It isn’t exaggeration to say that Macron’s visit marked a precedent in France’s history. No other French president has raced to visit the site of a disaster that had taken place outside French soil. The sole exception was late President Jacque Chirac and his wife, who traveled to Beirut for the funeral of slain Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Today, Lebanon has been martyred twice: The first time by the massive nuclear-like bombing that destroyed half the capital, and the second by the atrociousness that has controlled and is controlling the Lebanese state, which appears to be living on another planet.

From the moment the blast took place, Health Minister Hamad Hasan was quick to conclude that it was caused by fireworks. It was then said that Hangar 12 stored 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, which was confiscated in 2013. The blaze in the fireworks may have caused the tragedy.

This is not viable, because ammonium nitrate needs to combine with other material for it to become explosive.

It was then said that a flame from welding operations at the hangar door reached the ammonium stacks. And many other analyses have since ensued.

It is not normal or reasonable for any state in history to confiscate such massive amounts of ammonium nitrate – 2,750 tons – and ignore repeated warnings since 2013 about the danger of keeping them there in the middle of the capital.

Some of the sources said that officials during the term of Prime Minister Saad Hariri were informed of the stockpile. He has completely denied this. Some sources confirmed that back in May, Hassan Diab was twice informed and President Michel Aoun thrice informed about the danger of keeping this material at Hangar 12. Nothing was done to address the issue.

More interesting than all of this is that Israel had just a few weeks ago released a detailed map of what it said were locations where Hezbollah was storing weapons and rockets it was receiving from Iran. Among the positions was a location near Beirut port, specifically Hangar 12 where the ammonium nitrate was stored. Moreover, the Times of Israel last year reported that the Mossad had informed European intelligence agencies that Hezbollah was storing ammonium nitrate at Beirut port to eventually use them in the manufacturing of explosives.

Back in July 2012, Hezbollah member, Hussein Abdullah, was arrested in Cyprus after eight tons of ammonium nitrate was discovered in his home. In August 2015, three Hezbollah members were arrested in Kuwait after 42,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, as well as C4, were found in their home. In 2017, Bolivian authorities raided a large Hezbollah warehouse where they found enough explosives to produce a 2.5-ton bomb. Prior to that, German authorities raided a Hezbollah warehouse in southern parts of the country where they discovered large amounts of ammonium nitrate and they soon designated the party as terrorist.

Confronted by the scale of the tragedy, which is reminiscent of the Chernobyl disaster, Israel appeared confused: First, when Benjamin Netanyahu announced an hour after the blast that Israel knows how to retaliate and later, when it oddly offered to aid Lebanon in its plight when it realized the massiveness of the destruction and that the crime is subject to international criminal law.

Of course, Hezbollah denied having anything to do with what happened. It is intriguing that dozens of stories have emerged over the catastrophe. From the farce of the fireworks to the talk about a small nuclear bomb that was fired by Israel and claims that had the shockwave not gone out to sea, Beirut would have been this age’s Hiroshima.

At any rate, the traces of a Hiroshima can be seen in Beirut, which has been murdered three times: The first when it was destroyed by the blast, the second by the political class that has been destroying it for a long time, and a third and central time, when the Hezbollah statelet took over the state. This was possible after the alliance with Aoun and after the establishment of the “farcical government”, which was embroiled in arguments over decisions and jurisdiction while the Lebanese people were being blown up by the blast and crushed under the rubble.

On top of all of this, the negligent and careless authority decided to form an investigation committee comprised of officials, who had turned a blind eye to the facts that led to the tragedy. What we need is an international probe comprised of experts who know what happened and who will not try to cover up the truth as usual.

This political class should have been wiped out by the blast as it wiped out the heart of Lebanon. It is enough to remember how Macron landed in Beirut at 11 am on Thursday and headed immediately to the port and the scene of the catastrophe. He then walked among the people in the devastated neighborhoods and listened to their plight. He then met with Aoun at 4 pm, five hours after arriving, meaning that that was the time for addressing the stricken people, who as of yet have been completely ignored by members of the farcical state.

It is not at all surprising for Macron to declare from the completely devastated Gemmayze, where he embraced the people, that it is time for the political system to change and that he will propose a new pact for the murdered country. Is this what prompted Aoun to leave him alone to speak to reporters soon after his arrival at the airport? … strange.