World · August 4, 2022

Explosion at Beirut port two years later: open wound escalates as authorities try to close the case

It was 6:07 pm. Thousands of lives have been turned upside down and the Lebanese capital, no stranger to the disaster, has been turned into hell.

Just like broken watches, the catastrophe seems to have been suspended in time. Thursday marks two years since the harbor explosion. Yet the worst-hit eastern neighborhoods of the city still bear the scars of the blast. Relatives of at least 215 people who have died are still gathering to demand justice. The judicial investigation into the explosion is moribund. And the harbor’s huge grain silos, which withstood the effects of the blast despite their proximity, have been burning for weeks.
In the two years following the explosion, the Lebanese political elite – known colloquially by the pejorative term al-Sulta, or “the power” – escaped justice and tried to sweep memory under the proverbial carpet. For activists, especially relatives of the deceased, he painfully recalled how the civil war in the country ended in 1990.

Then, an amnesty bill completed Lebanon’s warring parts of apparent crimes against humanity and war crimes, including massacres, rape, extrajudicial executions and mass displacements. Accounts of the 15-year conflict are nowhere to be found in the country’s official history books. An entire population has been tasked with moving forward.

A year after the Beirut blast, survivors are still mourning, still angry and still awaiting justice

The authorities’ playbook was similar in its response to the 2020 port explosion, which remains the only deadliest explosion in Lebanon’s modern history, causing material and physical casualties up to 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) away.

In subsequent years, the government repeatedly blocked a judicial investigation that accused several officials of criminal negligence for improper storage of up to 2,700 tons of explosive ammonium nitrate, the ignition of which led to the devastating explosion. Some of those accused have been re-elected to parliament this year.

Earlier this year, the government also launched plans to demolish the damaged silos, arousing the ire of the victims’ families, who regard them as a memorial to the disaster. The government bowed to popular pressure and the plan was abandoned.

But weeks later, the facility began to burn down, arousing the suspicion of activists and relatives of the deceased. They accused the government of making tentative attempts to put out the fires, a charge they deny. When two of the silos finally collapsed over the weekend, activists shook.

“For weeks you have let the silos burn slowly and you have not taken any serious action to stop the fire”, Activist Lucien Bourjeily tweeted, apparently addressing the political establishment. “The collapse (of the silos) today resembles the collapse of the state which is slowly falling apart, with no serious action to stop it or hold those responsible.”
What we still don't know about the Beirut port explosion

Beirut’s grain silos are many things at once. They stand like an imposing tombstone from a bygone era. The smoking structure seems even more solid as the open wound of the collective memory of the city. And, importantly for the relatives of the victims, it marks the scene of a crime, a looming mass that serves as a reminder of the search for responsibility.

Since the explosion, Lebanon’s financial crisis, which began in October 2019, has continued. The country is grappling with a bread crisis, partly due to the fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but also due to Lebanon’s infrastructural and financial degradation. Its economic problems – inflation, rising unemployment, mass poverty – continue unabated.

But for many, the subsequent crises did not obscure memories of the explosion at the port of Beirut: the shattered glass that creaked underfoot for weeks afterwards; the scenes of overflowing hospital wards; those who died and those who barely survived. For those seeking justice, the events of 6:07 pm on August 4, 2020 must continue to resonate until those responsible are called to respond.

The digested

Israeli Lapid makes a rare allusion to the country’s nuclear weapons arsenal

The Israeli prime minister made a rare allusion on Monday in a speech to the country’s widely suspected nuclear arsenal.
  • Background: Presenting himself at an event to celebrate a leadership change at the country’s Atomic Energy Commission, Yair Lapid spoke about Israel’s defensive and offensive capabilities, as well as what he called its “other capabilities” – understood as a reference to nuclear weapons. “The operational arena in the invisible dome above us is built on defensive and offensive capabilities, and what the foreign media tends to call ‘other capabilities.’ These other capabilities keep us alive and will keep us alive as long as we and our children. we’ll be here, ‚ÄĚLapid said.
  • Because matter: Israel is believed to possess a few hundred nuclear weapons, having developed the technology in the 1960s. Unlike most alleged nuclear-weapon states, Israel has never formally declared possession. On the contrary, it pursues a policy of ‘opacity’ – in the sense that Israeli leaders, when pushed, have preferred to make only oblique or ambiguous references to nuclear weapons.

The warring parties of Yemen renew the truce for another two months

Warring parties in Yemen agreed on Tuesday to renew a two-month truce, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg said in a statement. The rival parties have agreed to extend the truce for another two months.

  • Background: “I am pleased to announce that the parties have agreed to extend the truce, under the same conditions, for another two months, from August 2, 2022 to October 2, 2022,” Grundberg said in a statement, adding that the extension includes the commitment to “intensify negotiations to reach an expanded agreement on truth as soon as possible”.
  • Because matter: The Iranian-backed Yemeni Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition have been at war for the past seven years, but on April 2 they agreed on a two-month UN-mediated truce, which would expire on Tuesday. Rival parties have yet to agree on a permanent ceasefire.

Biden admin approves potential multi-billion dollar arms sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE

The Biden administration approved and notified Congress on possible multi-billion dollar arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday.

  • Background: The US Department of State has approved a possible sale of PATRIOT MIM-104E Guidance Enhanced Missile-Tactical Ballistic Missiles (GEM-T) and related equipment to Saudi Arabia for an estimated $ 3.05 billion. The US government has also approved the potential sale of “Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles, THAAD communication and fire control stations and related equipment at an estimated cost of $ 2.245 billion” to the United Arab Emirates.
  • Because matter: The approval notice comes just weeks after President Joe Biden met with leaders of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in the Saudi city of Jeddah last month. It also comes amid US efforts to push oil-rich countries to increase oil production and as allies in the Gulf express concern over what is perceived as a declining US security presence in the region. The approval was also notified on the same day the United Nations announced a two-month extension of the truce in Yemen.

Number of the day

704 million dollars

According to a statement from the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) on Tuesday, Egypt’s Suez Canal reported $ 704 million in revenue, its highest monthly income ever. The record figure was up 32.4 percent from the same month last year, the SCA added.

What’s trending

President of Algeria Abdelmadjid Tebboune said he is interested in joining the BRICS, a group of emerging economies that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Tebboune said his country meets the conditions for joining the group.

The hashtag was trending in Algeria and most users welcomed the initiative. One wrote of the news that “it will make our voices even more audible”. Some users were guessing what the new name of the group will be as it consists of the first letter of each member country, one with the words: “Algeria wants to join the BRICS … BRICSA?”

Kuwait: # Memory_of_Iraq’s_brutal_invasion

“Remembrance of the brutal invasion of Iraq” was the number one trend in Kuwait this week as users shared old speeches by Kuwait’s then Emir Jaber Al-Sabbah and videos of his return from exile in March 1991. .

On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded oil-rich Kuwait in an apparent attempt to repay the debts accumulated from the country’s eight-year war with Iran. The invasion was the first domino to fall at the head of the Persian Gulf in 1990-91.

Jordan’s number one hashtag this week, #Jordan_is_not_okay, was triggered by the parliament’s decision to raise the monthly salaries of parliamentarians by 200 Jordanian dinars ($ 282). Parliament defended the decision as compensation for the fuel price increase.

Twitter users were up in arms. One wrote: “A member of parliament whose salary is over 3000 JD ($ 4230) receives a salary for fuel but the Jordanian people with a salary between 400 and 450 JD get nothing … I don’t understand anything” . Another user tweeted a graphic of a Jordan-shaped block of cheese being eaten by mice, with the caption “this is how I see Jordan …”

By Muhammad Abdelbary

Photo of the day

An aerial view of the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni ship, carrying a cargo of 26,527 tons of corn from the Ukrainian port of Odesa, as it arrived at the Black Sea entrance to the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, Turkey on August 3.