The massive explosion that destroyed the port of Beirut and much of the city for miles, almost immediately was attributed the explosion of 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at port.

That highly explosive chemical, used widely in agriculture, is attributed in various investigations, including by The New York Times and BBC, to a ship that became entangled in legal difficulties and offloaded the ammonium nitrate in 2013, where it sat in a warehouse.

It’s possible to believe that the reported origins of the shipment as reported are innocent, but that doesn’t answer the complicity of various Lebanese actors. The Hezbollah-controlled civilian government just resigned in response to fury as to bureaucratic bumbling that endagered the city and country.

But I have a feeling there’s a lot more to the story.

An Italian explosives expert nicknamed “Mr. Dynamite” has disputed ammonium nitrate as being the only explosive substance involved. Follow this thread which summarizes his Italian article on the subject.

I don’t know if his theories about the explosions are correct, perhaps readers can weigh in on it. But something doesn’t seem right about the simplicity of 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate just blowing up on its own, because of a welding or fireworks spark.

I am suspicious of such a theory because we know that Hezbollah (1) controls Beirut, (2) has a program of hiding explosives and rocket/missile material in civilian areas and buildings.

Joe Truzman laughs at the idea that such a large quantity of ammonium nitrate being stored at the port without Hezbollahs’ knowledge, at minimum:

Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah took to the airwaves Friday to deny the group’s involvement in the Beirut port explosions that killed more than 130 people and injured thousands.

“I want to declare that we absolutely have nothing to do with this. We’ve never had rockets, explosives, ammonium nitrate, not a single bullet stored there. Not in the past, not currently and not in the future,” Nasrallah emphatically stated.

Furthermore, Nasrallah denied the group was active at the port and suggested it knew more about the Israeli port of Haifa than it did Beirut’s port.

“We don’t control the port, we don’t govern the port, we don’t know what’s happening inside the port and the warehouse. Hezbollah is about resistance, we probably know more about Haifa than we know about Beirut,” Nasrallah said.

The statement “we don’t know what’s happening inside the port” is difficult to believe. It is unlikely one of the most powerful paramilitary groups in the world isn’t aware of the activity going on at a major commercial transport hub in its own country. It also counters what was discussed at a United Nations Security Council meeting in 2019, according to a Reuters report.

“Israel found that Iran and the Quds Forces have begun to advance the exploitation of civilian maritime channels,” and that Beirut “is now the Port of Hezbollah” the Reuters report stated.

Israeli sources are being more explicit. Israel Hayom reports:

Hezbollah is responsible for the devestating explosion in the Port of Beirut last week, the killed 145 people and wounded over 5,000, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon asserted Friday, in an interview with Saudi outlet Elaph.

According to Ya’alon, a weapons depot belonging to the Iranian-backed terrorist group had caught fire and led to the ammonium nitrate stored in the port to blow up.

“Lebanon is not an independent state, it was taken hostage by Hezbollah,” Ya’alon was quoted as saying, adding that Hezbollah was well aware of the massive nitrate stock in the port which is under its control.

That would be consistent with the Italian explosives expert — ammonium nitrate did explode, but it was sparked by an explosion at a Hezbollah weapons cache.

Mordecai Kedar of Israel’s Besa Center opines:

With all due respect to the Lebanese authorities, I do not buy this story. I believe that explosives, ammunition, and missile fuel (which are highly volatile and flammable substances) were stored by Hezbollah in this warehouse after being shipped from Iran. There are several reasons why I believe this.

  1. There was a series of at least three explosions, each of which had a different result. The first created a gray column of smoke that remained for several minutes. The second, a column of red smoke, also remained for several minutes, while the third created a white mushroom cloud that dissipated within seconds. This suggests that at least three different materials were stored in that warehouse (see video).
  2. Anyone familiar with how a port operates knows that the front row of warehouses, which are closest to the water, are used for short-term storage. Cargo that is meant to be stored long-term is moved to warehouses further away from the water.
  3. Anyone who ships sensitive cargo and does not want it to be seen, photographed, or targeted by others from air, space, or ground tries to hide it as close as possible to the water. The warehouse that exploded was on the water’s edge.
  4. After Israel (according to foreign sources) attacked the warehouses at Damascus Airport several times, Beirut Seaport replaced Damascus Airport as the destination for Hezbollah’s ammunition and explosives imports from Iran. What used to arrive at Damascus Airport by air is now brought to Beirut by ship. For Hezbollah’s purposes, the warehouses at the port of Beirut have replaced the warehouses of Damascus Airport.
  5. What probably happened on August 4 was an explosion of volatile and flammable materials that were incorrectly stored by Hezbollah for at least a day in a metal, non-airconditioned warehouse. As it is midsummer, temperatures are very high. I believe missile-fuel fumes evaporated from a container and touched the hot wall or ceiling, where they ignited and caused a chain reaction of explosions.
  6. Less than an hour after the explosions, Hezbollah announced that the exploded material was ammonium nitrate. Hezbollah was the first to report it. The reason: Hezbollah was looking for a way to cover up its own negligence and establish an official version that deflected attention away from itself, because no one in the government would dare contradict them.

Yoni Ben Menachem of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs doubts any investigation would dare touch upon Hezbollah’s culpability:

Lebanese are already asking whether the investigation results are pre-written to lay the responsibility on some low-level security guard or official. It will clear the Lebanese Government and Hizbullah of any responsibility for the disaster and the failure to remove the dangerous materials from the heart of a major civilian facility.

The leaks from the investigation so far do not touch on the claims that Hizbullah turned the port of Beirut into a weapons warehouse and had actually seized the ammonium nitrate stockpiled in the port to create explosive devices (IEDs) that it uses in terrorist bombs. In 2015, a Hizbullah warehouse storing 8.3 tons of ammonium nitrate was discovered in Cyprus, and six months later, three tons of ammonium nitrate were found in four London hideouts. “On top of the risk of accidental detonations that threaten residential neighborhoods, it was revealed that the charge used in the Burgas bus bombing in 2012 contained ammonium nitrate,” according to one report.1

Nor is there reference by investigators that the massive explosion may have included a smaller blast of Hizbullah’s weaponry that was stored near the ammonium nitrate stash, as al-Arabiya TV reported on August 4. Viewers of the videos of the port explosions claimed they saw “fireworks going off.” It can be said with relative certainty that the many tiny flashes were from low caliber ammunition exploding.

Hizbullah stores explosives, missiles, rockets, and ammunition throughout Lebanon, especially among the civilian population, to make it difficult for Israel to destroy them. The Iranian-backed group has transformed Lebanese residents into “human shields” to protect Hizbullah’s weapons.

Alex Traiman theorizes that the ammonium nitrate was intended for Israel, which would be consistent with Hezbollah’s storing caches of ammonium nitrate in European countries, as the Jerusalem Post reported:

Hezbollah kept three metric tons of ammonium nitrate, the explosive thought to be behind the mega blast in Beirut this week, in a storehouse in London, until MI5 and the London Metropolitan Police found it in 2015.

The Lebanese terrorist group also stored hundreds of kilograms of ammonium nitrate in southern Germany, which were uncovered earlier this year.

Using the stockpile against Israel would be consistent with Hezbollah’s threat to rocket ammonia tanks in Haifa (which have since been removed):

Then there’s this curious report by NBC News that “Rescue teams found a network of subterranean rooms” under the port. Maybe innocuous, or maybe part of Hezbollah’s reknowned tunnel projects. Lebanese officials, controlled by Hezbollah, deny any tunnels despite video and photo evidence.

The Lebanese Armed Forces have denied the existence of tunnels, just as Hezbollah has denied doing anything at Beirut Port. It’s unclear how the army could refute the claims without investigating the images and videos already circulating online. Nevertheless, the army denied the existence of tunnels.

Hezbollah wasted no time warning people not to try to blame it:

Hezbollah’s leader, Hasan Nasrallah, warned Friday not to hold the Shiite militia responsible for the massive blast at Beirut’s port, as many Lebanese point to Hezbollah as a source of problems that helped bring about the tragedy….

“If you want to start a battle against the resistance over this incident, you will get no results,” Nasrallah said, referring to Hezbollah.

“The resistance, with its strength and patriotism, is greater and bigger and stronger than to be hit by those liars who want to push and provoke for civil war,” he added. “They will fail and they will always fail.”

Several things could be true at the same time: The shipment came to Beirut as described by the NY Times and BBC, but then kept as a reserve or partially used by Hezbollah, and the explosion was triggered by Hezbollah’s storage of other weapons in close proximity.

None of this “proves” Hezbollah is directly implicated. But it does raise questions no one in Lebanon dare ask much less answer given Hezbollah’s power and willingness to use that power.

 

 
donate
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.