Israel’s senior Opposition leader, Moshe Yaalon, told a Saudi Arabia media outlet that the explosion in the Beirut port was initiated in a Hezbollah arms cache located there:
Ya’alon said that an explosion in a weapons depot belonging to Hezbollah preceded the explosion in this chemical warehouse and that the terror organization controls both Beirut port and Beirut airport.
This is the first Israeli official confirmation of a major part of the story I’ve reported–that Israel bombed the Hezbollah site in order to destroy the weapons stored there.
Yaalon couched his revelation in a manner that blamed Hezbollah, rather than Israel, for the tragedy by claiming that the militant group knew there was ammonium nitrate stored in a nearby warehouse. This conveniently minimizes Israel’s culpability for the crime. It also glosses over the fact that, according to my source, Israeli intelligence didn’t realize the fertilizer was stored in a nearby warehouse either, which is how it precipitated the entire tragedy.
Yaalon also lays to rest two objections offered by skeptics who doubt the narrative of Israeli involvement. First, he says that Hezbollah controls both the Beirut port and airport. Even if he is exaggerating, this does clearly indicate that Hezbollah would maintain an arms cache stored at the port. It also puts to rest the claim that a fireworks explosion or welder’s torch caused the initial explosion (red herring claims bruited about in media outlets like the Guardian). In an earlier post, I noted that veteran CIA analyst, Robert Baer, argued that military munitions, rather than fireworks, consisted of the first explosion, which later ignited the second warehouse.
The Israeli leader further confirms the arms depot caused the second catastrophic explosion. Though Yaalon would like you to believe this was Hezbollah’s fault, it wasn’t. And this was a convenient way for him to get the story past the Israeli military censor.
It is also interesting that Yaalon chose to publish the story in a Saudi Arabian media outlet, Elaph, which seems to be the go-to Arab media outlet for Israeli leaks that highlight its budding ties to the Sunni world and Gulf states in particular. Also, the Saudis would be quite pleased publishing a story that embarrasses one of their Shiite rivals, Hezbollah.
My prediction is that Yaalon’s comment will open the floodgates for others to reveal more about the circumstances of the Israeli attack. Those new developments will further confirm the broad outlines of the report from my well-informed Israeli source.
If we want to speculate about the origin of the original story, it’s always useful to look at internal rivalries to see who would want to take down a competitor. In this case, the Israeli attack would likely have been planned either by either the Mossad or AMAN (military intelligence).
A current story in Haaretz notes that Mossad chief, Yossi Cohen, is especially peeved at figures from the Shin Bet for usurping the former’s role in cultivating ties with the Arab world. This is one of the most important functions of Mossad in terms of eliciting intelligence and recruiting assets. Cohen is known for being a fearsome protector of the Mossad’s turf and did not take kindly to the Shin Bet figures beginning to cultivate such ties as well.
If the Mossad did plan the operation that failed, those Shin Bet rivals might be motivated to give Cohen a black-eye by leaking the story.