Lebanese Intelligence Official: Beirut Explosion “No Accident,” Caused by Israel
This is the fourth in a series of articles about the Beirut port explosion and Israeli culpability for the disaster.
Asian Times’ Middle East correspondent has consulted multiple Lebanese sources including an intelligence official and offers much confirming information about my original report that Israel bombed a Hezbollah arms depot at the Beirut port. Much of the information in her article addresses key points raised by skeptics who disagree with my assessment.
A Hezbollah-linked source explains why neither Israel nor Hezbollah would publicly confirm the real nature of the events which transpired:
The alternative, Lebanese security sources said, would be the logical attribution to Israel, forcing Hezbollah into an equivalent response, which would trigger a war of catastrophic proportions.
“If it was an Israeli attack, then this will not be revealed because it implicates both sides in a war they don’t want,” a senior Lebanese source close to Hezbollah told Asia Times on condition of anonymity.
Other skeptics allege that the location of the port in a Christian neighborhood would preclude Hezbollah from maintaining an arms facility there. It also notes a point I made in my initial post, that Trump was, for once, telling the truth, when he announced after a high-level military briefing that the Beirut disaster was a “terrible attack:”
In Lebanon, “there is nothing happening in sensitive places – the airport, frontiers, seaport – that is not related to the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel,” a former high-ranking Lebanese military-intelligence source told Asia Times.
The explosion, he assessed, was no accident. And Trump, he said, is evidently incapable of keeping a secret.
Prevalent in the world media and among others seeking to rebut the Hezbollah-Israel scenario is the claim that the initial explosion was caused by fireworks. This source rebut that and also affirms the chain of catastrophic events began with a detonation of military arms:
Yet the fireworks scenario is being met with intense skepticism, given the obvious dangers such a close storage arrangement would present.
“I do not believe there was that amount of ammonium nitrate at the port of Beirut, nor that there was a fireworks depot,” explosives expert Danilo Coppe told Italian daily Corriere.
“When ammonium nitrate detonates, it generates an unmistakable yellow cloud. Instead, from the videos of the explosion, in addition to the white sphere that can be seen expanding – which is condensation of the sea air – you can clearly see a brick orange column tending to bright red, typical of lithium participation. Lithium-metal is a propellant for military missiles, so I think there were armaments there.”
“It seems like an explosion of an armament warehouse,” said Coppe.
A U.S. military weapons specialist argues that the initial explosion was a deliberate act of sabotage. Again, this accords with my original report:
A US military explosives expert who has worked closely with the Lebanese army told Asia Times on condition of anonymity that according to his contacts among the Lebanese armed forces, the explosion was an “act of sabotage” against the hangar, which was holding not only ammonium nitrate, but also short-range missiles, allegedly impounded.
I’ve spoken to several [Lebanese former and current] military people that all agreed this was an arms depot exploding after the first strike, and that the ammonium nitrate would not ignite without a fuse, in this case an explosion,” said Riad Kahwaji, head of the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.
The journalist goes farther saying that her Lebanese defense experts have attributed the “sabotage” to a deliberate Israeli attack:
A number of Lebanese defense analysts believe Israel did likely carry out the attack, but did not intend for damage of this magnitude.
“The official word, is this was an accident,” said Kahwaji. “Everyone was surprised by the magnitude of the explosion, including the Israelis themselves, and hence they don’t want to take responsibility. Hezbollah won’t say because they don’t want to admit having weapons in the city.”
Frankly, I’m astonished at the level of vitriol and derision my reporting has met. I would expect it from right-wing pro-Israel sources. But much of this vindictive, even personal response has come from those who purport to be on the left. This has astonished me. But it has also made me realize that solidarity is easy on a day to day basis. But when a crisis strikes, then people either lose their bearings or revert to type. It’s good to know who your friends are and aren’t.
I also want to make clear that I accept skepticism. I accept the need to support this scenario with credible information. But I don’t accept outright blanket dismissal shorn of serious argument. And that’s what most of the skeptics offer.
I especially appreciate the few individuals who initially met my report with incredulity, but who kept enough of an open mind to read my ongoing reporting and become convinced that I was, if not absolutely right, at least offering an argument that needed to be taken seriously. Admitting error is not easy. But doing so is a mark of maturity and seriousness.
H/t to Joshua Gold.
33 thoughts on “Lebanese Intelligence Official: Beirut Explosion “No Accident,” Caused by Israel – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Like everything in the Middle East, anything is possible. But certainly the Lebanese government at this point would have a motive to deflect blame and Jews are the all-purpose targets for blame. All that said:
1. The cloud color for a blast that large is indeed consistent with the known quantity of ammonium nitrate on the site… almost 3,000 tons. The bigger the blast, the deeper the red.
2. The stuff has been there for 6 years and has been the subject of some considerable debate.
3. Ammonium nitrate is known to be unstable, and there has been a big accident involving it every few years for 100 years. Most bulk shipments of the stuff have a retardent to reduce chance of explosion. This pile did not, and explosions happen anyway even with retardent.
4. In several videos, timing of the “red” explosion and the pressure wave suggest military explosives and fuels were NOT involved, at least not to a major degree. Military explosives would have produced a supersonic shock wave that would have reached camera positions 2 or 3 times faster…. and caused even more carnage.
5. If there was a weapons target, therefore, it would have to be rather small. Would it have been worth the effort?
Verdict: I don’t rule out anything, but a military strike or sabotage by Israel or any outsider is highly unlikely based on anything you or anyone else has said so far.
@Steven Ross: All your comments are spoken with absolute authority…but little substance.
Multiple munitions experts including the U.S military and Lebanese intelligence sources confirm this was a munitions explosion. CIA analyst Robert Baer concurs. Yet you, Steven Ross, disagree because…? Because you know more? Because you are a munitions expert?
Ammonium nitrate is not known to be unstable. It is known to be dangerous because when ignited it will explode. But it needs to be ignited and that doesn’t happen wily-nily. There was only one ignition source in this case: the Hezbollah weapons going Boom!
As for your other points: like all good pro Israel apologists and 9/11 conspiracists you love getting down in the weeds in the attempt to prove some point or other which is irrelevant to the overall issue.
As for your judgment that my scenario is unlikely–I could care less. People who really know what they’re talking about disagree with you and agree with me. That’s all that matters. You? Not so much.
Don’t bother posting again in this thread. I have absolutely no interest in getting down in those weeds with you.
Preaching to the converted here. Just trying to get to the truth. All theories and opinions welcome.
Here is some wider geopoltical context worth considering: https://www.unz.com/article/the-us-israel-and-beirutshima/
If this was an Israeli attack, I can believe that there was surprise at the extent of the death and destruction. This destruction is unforgivable. I find myself unwilling to believe that this level of destruction was intended by Israel, as critical as I am of Israel ( very). I imagine this is the case for many: disbelief, unwillingness to believe to the point of using vitriol depending on their investment and need for firm evidence (which may not come). Like the devastations in Gaza it’s a moral question and it changes the image of Israel further.
“Pride” is the deadliest of the ‘Deadly Sins’. With icecaps melting at both the north and south poles, the Covid19 pandemic that could end human life on this planet, isn’t it time for the United States and Israel to give up their ‘Master’ roles and enter peace talks for the sake of their children and the children of Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and all children of the world? Russia gathered together western European representatives of OSCE with US, Ukrainian and Russian representatives to bring about the Minsk Ceasefire in the beginnings of the Ukraine Civil War of 2014. It wasn’t perfect, but deaths were reduced by almost 75% after the Agreement. Russia did the same with the Syrian carnage, and peace ceasefire were agreed upon in Aleppo, then another city and area and then another area. Of course, the US broke agreements on Ukraine AND in Syria – but agreements WERE made. And why can’t the US and Israel enter peace talks anywhere, EVER, and honor their agreements?
[comment deleted: clearly your goal here is to get down in the weeds and muddy the waters so badly no one can see a thing. I won’t permit that to happen. I will not publish comments like yours clearly designed to confuse and obfuscate. Try this again and you’ll get the same result.]
Sabotage or Just Accidents?
26 June: An explosion at a weapons depot in Parchin near Tehran. Hours later, 600 miles south in Shiraz, the power went out.
30 June: An explosion killed 19 people at a medical clinic in central Tehran.
2 July: An ‘incident’ was reported by Iranian media at the Natanz nuclear facility.
3 July: A huge fire in Shiraz, the same town hit by the power outage days earlier.
4 July: A fire at a power station in Ahvaz in southern Iran.
15 July: Iranian authorities are investigating a blaze that damaged 7 ships in Bushehr.
… the latest in a string of fires and explosions that have raised suspicions of coordinated sabotage
A timeline of fires and explosions at Iranian facilities | I24 |
Iranian official: Natanz blast caused by ‘security breach’
the volume of “experts” and “insiders” may speak volumes about the who and the why.
i would not put it past bibi to perhaps wants A deed to prop himself from the political gutter where he is. maybe he may have wanted a smaller deed as a victory lap for the ongoing endless elections. everything is possible at this moment,
the most moral army in the world has but one policy, shoot first ask questions later, this may be yet another of the “oops” where so used to when it comes to “supposedly” going after the other side arms pile, maybe
i’ve read that the original red plume and the lack of black/white arms explosion plume sorta shake the arms explosion, then again, as usual no israeli in current legal position in the world court will ever ever say boo.
aipac will never be able to raise enough reparation funds if that’s the case
i truly feel bad for the lebanese people outside of political/religious factions they are the best people to be amongst, lived there whilst young and felt the love and care they have for all insiders and outsiders, it is a true shame, they do not ever deserve this ever
Thank you Richard!
There are also reliable sources which state that this area of the city was/is not controlled or welcomed to Hezbollah.That Hezbollah wouldnt have access to such large activity there. It is like saying that Hamas have an arms dump in Rishon LeZion or the IRA had an arms dump in Shankill Belfast, the heart of Loyalist sympathies.
although I must admit, I’m still in the camp of the ‘sceptics’ – or I’d rather say in the camp of those not convinced yet – I admire your audacity in bringing up the possibility of an alliance made in hell of Israel&Hezbollah, both equally interested for different reasons in hiding and denying ‘the true cause’ of the Beirut-blast.
If your hypothesis might be proven wrong – if ever …– that too might add to our understanding of what happened there, not to speak about the possibility – remote at this moment – if definitive proof can be delivered that an Israeli act of sabotage started this fateful chain of events.
The main problem with denying such an act of sabotage, seems to me that till now I have not seen a more plausible explanation for wat caused the initial fire/(blast?). That’s no proof in itself for your hypothesis, but those denying an act of sabotage have to come up with something else, strong and convincingly, to explain what set this in motion.
Anyhow, thanks a lot for arguing and following this.
You’re pretty much grasping at straws and using extreme cherry picking at this point.
Case in point: An Italian explosives expert says he does not believe “there was that amount of ammonium nitrate at the port of Beirut, nor that there was a fireworks depot”? Well, the amount of ammonium nitrate at the port is a recorded and corroborated fact, and the cache was subject to years of disputes and litigation. As to the fireworks? Beirut explosion: former port worker says fireworks stored in hangar. Well, at least the expert got another mention in the paper.
Also, the title of your post, “Lebanese Intelligence Official: Beirut Explosion ‘No Accident,’ Caused by Israel” is highly misleading, given that the quoted source is a “former” intelligence official, who has no direct knowledge about the incident.
Ultimately, there is just no credible evidence for the claim you have made and repeated. Your strongest evidence so far is some secret Israeli source who does not claim to have direct knowledge, and no corroboration has been offered.
@ Rex: So a former port worker who emigrated from Lebanon and now lives in Canada; and who spoke to some anonymous other port workers who claim there were fireworks in the hangar. That chain of evidence hangs on an exceedingly flimsy reed. But even if there were fireworks there, that has little to do with anything. If they were inside warehouse 12 with the fertilizer, they would have ignited when the initial explosion happened in warehouse 9, Hezbollah’s arms depot.
You conveniently neglect that the Asia Times story is based on multiple sources ALL OF WHOM corroborate key parts of my own reporting. Second, since when does a former intelligence official stop being credible after he’s no longer an intelligence official? Does Robert Baer, ex CIA analyst, cease knowing the difference between fireworks and military munitions exploding in a video, because he’s no longer a CIA agent? Some of my best stories here were given to me by Benjamin Ben Eliezer, a former IDF general, former defense minister, and former Knesset member. He didn’t stop being well-informed when he stopped doing those jobs. Nor did the Lebanese source. Of course, he has direct knowledge of the incident. Otherwise he wouldn’t speak as authoritatively as he has.
From the many videos available which show the explosion it is obvious that another event had caught everyone’s attention, long before the explosion: a fire raging at the warehouse. This went on for as much as a few minutes, and was very visible by the huge plume of smoke emanating from the warehouse. Only after quite some time does a rattling volley start of what appears to be exploding fireworks, but which could equally be small munitions. And only then does the big explosion occur. https://youtu.be/9a0cyzhzZbo
Breaking News reports after the blast in NY Times and WaPo designated blast in warehouse #9 … should have been entry/door 9 in warehouse #12. Riddle solved.
Explanation and description of blast is time dependent … earliest reports could be inaccurate and more recent can be doctored. The former port worker named Yusuf Shehadi reported fire works stash in warehouse … he left Beirut in March and now lives in Canada. Is hearsay and not evidence and fact at time explosion occurred.
Yusuf Shehadi said he personally saw the delivery of the fireworks which had been confiscated by customs about a decade ago.
Lebanese sources told reporters fireworks were stocked temporarily …
Every writer or journalist works on evidence and hunches what could have happened. The western media are clearly writing in support of a revolution and another regime change. Worthless … I too like regime change, a bit more democracy, less oligarch and wealth in politics starting in Washington, London, Paris, Brussels (EU), Jerusalem and Moscow. For Beirut, colonial powers and GCC States should stay out!
@StevenRoss … I object how you injected the term “Jews” in blame. The Holocaust and anti-semitism is primarily an European and Christian issue. Lebanon has a problem with the Jewish State of Israel and the artificial establishment of borders after WWI and the end (sort of) of colonialism.
The Jews of Lebanon: Between Coexistence and Conflict
Al Arabya – video
See clearly distinct munitions explode – NOT fireworks – and setting in motion a chain reaction in a few seconds before the final blast. The fire raced through the extended warehouse …
When Trump & Co is your paymaster …
So sad … the next war on your country of birth will surpass the CIA supported gassing of Iranians in Saddam’s war. Stop the bullying by Western states, stop the economic sanctions when your arguments fail, build bridges through diplomacy, participating in sport and cultural events.
The negligence factor is certain and huge. What counts so far is that people are out in the street in Beirut and are blaming their government for leaving so many explosives for so long. They are and have been wanting change in their government. Officials, can only point fingers.
This is an open case so far because of credibility and biases. But what cannot be denied is the negligence of those in authority. People out there in the streets feeling this, know this. In the meantime the Lebanese need help and they should take it, even from Israel.
Yes Stephen Ross is like most Zionists dishonest. Saying that ‘Jews are the all-purpose targets for blame’ implies that if Israel is blamed I am blamed. Why? Israel is not my state or that of the majority of world Jewry? In most peoples’ books this is antisemitic.
I was one of the people who helped circulate the story though I was by no means convinced. I’m still not convinced but I also recognise, given the record of Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Syria, that it is certainly a possibility. Only with the release of satellite imagery will we really know but that depends on the countries with access to that information.
What did surprise me was the level of invective from those who should know better. When I circulated it I received emails from some people who I know who were clearly bitterly antagonistic to Richard and seem to have used this as an opportunity to stick the knife in.
@ Tony Greenstein: Thanks, TOny. And just a note. If you bother to read the comments here keep in mind that there are perhaps 30 comments I haven’t published which are far worse than any attacks you’ve seen on my reporting in social media.
[comment deleted: I’ve warned you about the weeds. Now you are moderated.]
BBC video beginning of fire h/t Quentin Sommerville
After studying the layout of docks and warehouses, I must suggest this is warehouse #11.
In first frame one sees a ship on dockside and at 0:14 the sign on the gate next to the red container reads warehouse #11.
The location of video is between warehouse and grain silo.
Confusion point of entry/gate 9 at warehouse 12 and error in initial reports in NY Times of fire in warehouse 9.
Tweet by Elijah Magnier
‘Israel wants to help Lebanon,’ Macron tells donor conference | Ynet News |
Gantz: Nasrallah is our biggest foe to the north, but Lebanon’s biggest problem | Times of Israel |
From which side of the mouth are Israeli ministers speaking?
Interesting if the explosion was caused by israel, why have a number of lebanese ministers resigned, with reports of more government resignations and possibly pm and entire government?
@dayvo: Because Lebanese rightly blame their corrupt dysfunctional government for not maintaining a safer port and allowing the conditions that led to the disaster.
Richard ….brave man you are. The only thing I disagree is that mossad was unaware of the presence of an adjacent warehouse full of nearly 6million pounds of Ammonium nitrate stored and unmoved for 7 years. That is incongruent with all logic.
Richard, the Middle East is an example of shitty work practices and need a work safe intervention.
Israel, crappy as it is, isn’t the problem that Lebanon faces. Their issue is population doubling every 7 years.
X2 the number of schools and hospitals etc in 7 years
X4 the number of schools and hospitals etc in 14 years
X8 the number of schools and hospitals etc in 21 years
And the country is bankrupt.
No doubt some of that is a competition between Christians and Muslims to have the most babies to over power the other demographically.
If Israel did or didn’t do it, it was the Lebanese that stored the ammonium nitrate in an unsafe manner. It’s not the first accident of this type.
The fire was well raging long before it hit the ammonium nitrate.
Since this is all supposition, I’m putting my money on poor work practice. Unfortunately the people that know how this happened were all blown up.
@ Yani: Blaming Lebanon and minimizing Israeli culpability is a losing proposition. ANd if you want to claim that Lebanon is a basket case, a good portion of the blame for this is the intervention by Israel, Syria and others in Lebanon’s internal affairs. THe country has suffered decades of violence and brutality at Israel’s hands. It’s a mess at least in good part because Israel contributed heavily to creating it.
The explosion of the ammonium nitrate was not an “accident.” That stuff doesn’t just spontaneously blow up. It needs an ignition source. And Israel provided it by blowing up the Hezbollah warehouse.
I actually watched over two hours of cellphone video collected here: https://youtu.be/72ec-TzWnUs
The fireworks angle is legit. The primary explosion, the one that created the pressure bubble that actually ruined everything, came AFTER several orange flareups occurred in the fire. The white smoke from the fireworks is legit. It burned for a long time before the big explosion. You can see and hear the fireworks going off for several minutes prior to the big explosion. And some of the videos DO show the giant bags of ammonium nitrate in the warehouse. I don’t know how the ammonium nitrate went off al at once though. That was a single, bigass boom. Not multiple. And that column of red smoke. That stuff was THICK. That smoke will tell us exactly what exploded and burned. If you Google “ammonium nitrate fire” and look at the images – you will see that exact smoke pattern and color. It was exactly what they said it was. It was not missiles. Now – HOW did the fire start? WAS there something to trigger the AN? Dunno.