Rumors and Unanswered Questions Plague Beirut Explosion

The speculation continues as there are no coincidences in the Middle East. 

By Abu Khalil

Lebanon has long been a battlefield for regional and international actors. The nation of 5 million stands as a buffer between Israel, Syria, and Iran’s forces inside Syria. In the absence of a Lebanese state, the forces of Hezbollah, Iran, Syria, ISIS, Israel, Russia, and, of course, the U.S. would be nose to nose. It is this dangerous geometry that is the impetus for the questions and rumors surrounding the massive explosion. This regional lynchpin status also makes many Lebanese utterly skeptical about initial reports. Count me among those skeptics. 

UPDATE: The two videos below were removed by YouTube.

Yesterday, a video surfaced purportedly showing what appears to be a rapidly approaching missile or projectile hitting the port just prior to the massive explosion. The source of the video has not been identified. Though the video appears to be shot in infrared, the video actually features forensic color grading done in post production. Textures are inverted to divulge unseen details and reveal nuance in video that is otherwise not seen.  Several video analysts contacted by testset claim differed on their assessment of its authenticity. On in particular said that ” if this video is a fake, it was created by someone with experience in the field of video effects and editing. The capture is smooth and the timing is impeccable. ” Still, others claimed they could recreate the video in 5 minutes. Evidently, we live in an era where deep fake technologies get better everyday. We may simply never know whether the video is authentic or not.

Video removed by YouTube.

Other videos have surfaced comparing recent Israeli bombings in Syria to the Beirut explosion. Similar incendiary structure and subsequent shockwaves appear identical. Rumors have circulated that this is possibly a recently deployed munition and the Beirut explosion represents a test of sorts. 

Video removed by YouTube.

What we do know is that 2500 tons of ammonium nitrate were stored at the centrally located port of Beirut. Unlike many major cities, Beirut’s port is adjacent to it’s downtown, retail, and residential. Tuesday’s explosion constitutes the largest non-military munitions explosion in world history. The massive sum of ammonium nitrate, an ultra-combustible chemical compound typically used as fertilizer, was sat in port for seven years. 

Port officials warned the government for several years that the ammonium nitrate posed a huge health and security threat. Paradoxically, a dozen port officials have been placed under house arrest pending the investigation.

Lebanese Customs chief Badri Daher said to international media that he and his bureau have engaged the Lebanese court system and politicians several times to dispose of the dangerous chemical. According to ZeroHedge, “Daher says the request for urgent removal was made six times to the judiciary over the years, all denied.”

“This did not happen,” he said. The end result after the dangerous chemical — which is the same use in the deadly 1995 Oklahoma City bombing — was stored there since 2013 (also in undiluted form), was the most destructive blast in Lebanese history, killing over 135 people and injuring more than 5,000 – not to mention an estimated three billion dollars in damage.”

“Legal documents, court correspondence and statements by public officials now trying to pass the buck shed light on the operations of the port, which has been dogged by allegations of widespread bribery and controlled in large measure by the militant Hezbollah group,” The Washington Post reported.

The story of how the volatile compounds ever made it to the port is another story covered in intrigue. In 2013, Russian businessman Igor Grechushkin, was paid $1 million to transport the high-density ammonium nitrate via a leaking, ailing ship to the port of Beira in Mozambique. That’s when the ship, named the Rhosus, left the Black Sea port of Batumi, in Georgia.

According to ZeroHedge, the story then takes on a Shakespearen narrative: “But amid mutiny by an unpaid crew, a hole in the ship’s hull, and constant legal troubles, the ship never made it. Instead, it entered the port of Beirut where it was impounded by Lebanese authorities over severe safety issues, during which time the ammonium nitrate was transferred off, and the largely Ukrainian crew was prevented from disembarking, leading to a brief international crisis among countries as Kiev sought the safe return of its nationals.”

Testset’s inquiries from Beirutis on the ground reveal a people not quite ready to engage in certitude. Decades of foreign intervention and civil war has created skepticism around initial reports of all such phenomena. Lebanon was already in a political crisis, economic meltdown,and pandemic. Suffering on the ground is immeasurable. There are no final determinations of death count yet so far, atr least 135 are dead. More than 300,000 are homeless. 

FOR THOSE WONDERING WHERE YOU CAN HELP OUT IN LEBANON:

Please give whatever you can to one of the below relief orgs (and NOT to any government agencies). Your support will find its way immediately and directly to folks in need. (Thanks Nadia Shaah for this list):

ASHRAFIEH 2020 (Akram Nehme):https://www.just-help.org/c/relieffund

BEIT EL BARAKA : (for elderly community)https://www.beitelbaraka.org/

RIFAK el DARB (Joe Tawtal) :https://www.just-help.org/c/rifaqeldarb

BAYTNA BAYTAK (housing help) :https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-beirut-explosion

IMPACT LEBANON :https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/lebanon-relief

OFFRE JOIE (Melhem Khalaf):https://www.givingloop.org/offrejoie

LEBANESE RED CROSS :https://www.supportlrc.app/donate/

LEBANESE FOOD BANKS :https://lebanesefoodbank.org/donate/

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