Israel offers bitter rival Lebanon aid after blasts

JERUSALEM • Israel on Tuesday offered humanitarian aid to Lebanon, with which it is still technically at war, following the huge explosions that rocked Beirut, killing dozens of people and wounding thousands.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had instructed his National Security Council to make contact with United Nations Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov "in order to clarify how Israel can further assist Lebanon".

Earlier, Defence Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said Israel had "offered the Lebanese government - via international intermediaries - medical and humanitarian aid, as well as immediate emergency assistance".

President Reuven Rivlin said: "We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time."

The offers come after two weeks of heightened tensions between the rival neighbours.

Last week, Israel accused the Lebanese group Hizbollah of trying to send gunmen across the UN-demarcated "Blue Line" border and said it held the Beirut government responsible for what it termed an attempted "terrorist" attack.

Hizbollah and Israel last fought a 33-day war in the summer of 2006.

Close allies and traditional adversaries of Lebanon paid tribute on Tuesday to the victims of the twin blasts, as condolences and offers of help poured in.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Hassan Diab called on "friendly countries" to support the country already reeling from its worst economic crisis in decades as well as the coronavirus pandemic.

Gulf nations were among the first to react, with Qatar promising to send field hospitals to support the medical response. Qatar's ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, wished "a speedy recovery for the injured", while the United Arab Emirates' Vice-President and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, tweeted "our condolences to our beloved people in Lebanon".

Kuwait said it would also send emergency aid. Egypt expressed "deep concern" at the destruction, and Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit offered condolences, stressing "the importance of finding the truth about the explosions".

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said Amman was ready to provide any help Lebanon needed, while Iran said it was "fully prepared to render assistance in any way necessary".

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the great and resilient people of Lebanon," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. "Stay strong, Lebanon."

President Vladimir Putin said: "Russia shares the grief of the Lebanese people."

Washington said it too would help.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2020, with the headline 'Israel offers bitter rival Lebanon aid after blasts'. Print Edition | Subscribe