Hezbollah will respond if Israel behind Beirut blast, says Nasrallah

By Laila Bassam and Ellen Francis BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday that his group would wait for results of an investigation into the Beirut port explosion, but if it turns out to be an act of sabotage by Israel then it would 'pay an equal price'.

Reuters August 15, 2020 03:11:12 IST
Hezbollah will respond if Israel behind Beirut blast, says Nasrallah

Hezbollah will respond if Israel behind Beirut blast says Nasrallah

By Laila Bassam and Ellen Francis

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday that his group would wait for results of an investigation into the Beirut port explosion, but if it turns out to be an act of sabotage by Israel then it would "pay an equal price".

The leader of the powerful Iran-backed Shi'ite Muslim group said in a televised speech that the two theories under investigation were that either an accident due to negligence, or sabotage caused the explosion of warehoused ammonium nitrate.

Israel has denied any involvement in the Aug. 4 blast that killed 172 people, injured 6,000, damaged swathes of the city and left 300,000 homeless.

Lebanon's president has said investigators were looking into negligence, an accident or "external interference".

Nasrallah said that among sabotage possibilities, was a deliberate fire or the planting of a small bomb.

"Who could be behind an act of sabotage? It could be this side or that, and it could be Israel, which nobody can deny," he said.

Hezbollah was waiting for the Lebanese probe's results and if it found "this was a terrorist sabotage operation, and that Israel had a role, then not only Hezbollah will respond. The entire Lebanese state ... must respond," he said. "Israel will pay a price the size of the crime if it committed it."

Hezbollah, which exercises sway over government in Lebanon, has fought many wars with Israel.

Lebanon's Prosecutor General has pressed charges against 25 people, including senior port and customs officials, a judicial source said on Friday.

Nasrallah spoke shortly after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said while in Beirut that the international community should help Lebanon rather than impose its will on the country.

"It is not humane to exploit the pain and suffering of the people for political goals," Zarif said, adding that Lebanon should decide on its future.

International humanitarian aid has poured in but foreign states have linked financial assistance to reform of the Lebanese state, which has defaulted on its huge sovereign debts.

Iran is seen as a major player in Lebanon through backing, arming and funding Hezbollah, established by the Revolutionary Guards in 1982. The movement is classified by the United States as a terrorist group.

Iran's role has led U.S.-allied Gulf Arab states in recent years to shy away from giving Lebanon financial support.

Zarif met President Michel Aoun who also met on Friday with U.S. and French officials in a diplomatic drive that has focused on urging Lebanon to fight corruption and enact long-delayed reforms to unlock foreign financial aid to resolve the worst economic crisis in its history.

Visiting U.S. Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale said Lebanon needs to root out corruption, enact financial reforms, establish state control over ports and borders, and revamp the power sector.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly called for the formation of a government capable of taking "courageous decisions".

Lebanese had been staging angry protests against their leaders who they blame for Lebanon's many woes even before the blast, which officials have blamed on more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored for years without safety measures.

The explosion sharpened anger at the authorities.

"We can't live like this. The West has to pressure our leaders to save us," said Iyaam Ghanem, a Beirut pharmacist.

Victims and their representatives told reporters that only an independent probe would deliver justice, appealing to the U.N. Security Council for an international investigation.

"Is it acceptable that people find their homes shattered, their families killed, their hopes and their dreams killed, with no justice?" asked Paul Najjar, whose three-year-old daughter Alexandra died in the blast.

(Reporting by Ellen Francis, Laila Bassam and Ghaida Ghantous; Writing by Samia Nakhoul; editing by Grant McCool)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.