Rafiq Hariri’s son blames Hezbollah, ‘corrupt’ elite for Beirut explosion

Rafiq Hariri’s son blames Hezbollah, ‘corrupt’ elite for Beirut explosion
Bahaa Hariri, son of former prime minister Rafiq, has blamed Hezbollah and Lebanon’s political elite for the devastating explosion in Beirut that killed more than 150 people. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 August 2020

Rafiq Hariri’s son blames Hezbollah, ‘corrupt’ elite for Beirut explosion

Rafiq Hariri’s son blames Hezbollah, ‘corrupt’ elite for Beirut explosion
  • Government cannot be trusted with blast probe, says Bahaa Hariri

LONDON: Leading Lebanese opposition figure Bahaa Hariri, son of former prime minister Rafiq, has blamed Hezbollah and Lebanon’s political elite for the devastating explosion in Beirut that killed more than 150 people and injured thousands on Tuesday.

Hariri said earlier this week that ordinary Lebanese people knew that the Iran-aligned group controlled Beirut’s port, the site of the explosion, and the city’s airport.

He added it was “inconceivable” that authorities did not know that deadly ammonium nitrate, which is believed to have caused the huge blast, was stored in a warehouse at the port.

Hariri said: “The question we have to ask is how come for six years this combustible material was allowed to remain in the middle of this city of 2 million people? It is crystal clear Hezbollah are in charge of the port and the warehouse where the ammonium nitrate was stored. Nothing goes in and out of the port or the airport without them knowing. Nothing. Their decision to put it there in the middle of a city of two million people was an utter disaster. And now we have a destroyed city center.”

The explosion left at least 158 people dead, a further 5,000 wounded, with dozens more missing and 300,000 left homeless, as well as causing an estimated $15 billion worth of damage.

A judge in the investigation into the explosion confirmed that 16 port employees had been arrested. He said 18 people had been questioned, including port and customs officials, according to the state news agency.

Lebanese people, who took to the streets on Saturday in protest, blame a political elite they say is rife with corruption and incompetence and has pushed the country into economic despair.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited Beirut this week and offered his country's support for the Lebanese people and he warned the country would “continue to sink” unless there was deep political reform in Lebanon.

Hariri is also one of a growing number of politicians in Lebanon calling for an international investigation into the tragedy at the port.

“I cannot speculate as to the exact events at the port that day, but Hezbollah is a known terrorist organisation and I think the more destruction they inflict the better off they are,” he said. “Their symbiotic relationship with the government gives them full confidence to do what they want.

“We need an urgent international investigation into this tragedy. You can't trust the government or Hezbollah to carry out a proper investigation. We must have an external one and fast.

“There is a bankrupt relationship between these two warlords and they have to go. History shows warlords don't grow a country, they abuse them. We need to take Lebanon from a country to a nation,” he said.

Hariri’s comments on Hezbollah come after Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, warned in 2019 that Iranian forces were exploiting the port to help arm Hezbollah.

Speaking to the UN Security Council last year, Danon said: “Israel found that Iran and the Quds Force have begun to advance the exploitation of civilian maritime channels, and specifically the Port of Beirut. The Port of Beirut is now the Port of Hezbollah.”

An investigation into the assassination of Rafiq Hariri at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was supposed to announce its judgment on Friday, but the verdict has been postponed until Aug. 18.

Hezbollah has been designated as a terrorist organisation by many countries, including the US and UK, and in January the latter also acknowledged Hezbollah's political wing as part of the terrorist group as well as its military wing.


Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce
In this file photo taken on November 19, 2020, a Libyan stands in front of a school, which was damaged during fighting between rival factions, in the capital Tripoli's suburb of Ain Zara. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2021

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce
  • Ankara and Moscow appear intent on defending their interests under any final settlement

TRIPOLI: Foreign forces ignored a deadline to pull out of Libya as scheduled on Saturday under a UN-backed cease-fire deal, highlighting the fragility of peace efforts after a decade of conflict.

Satellite images broadcast by CNN show a trench running tens of kilometers dug by “Russian mercenaries” near the frontline coastal city of Sirte, as main foreign protagonists Ankara and Moscow appear intent on defending their interests under any final settlement.
An unidentified US intelligence official, quoted by the American news network, said there was “no intent or movement by either Turkish or Russian forces to abide by the UN-brokered agreement.”
“This has the potential to derail an already fragile peace process and cease-fire. It will be a really difficult year ahead,” he said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged all “regional and international actors to respect the provisions” of the Oct. 23 cease-fire accord that set out a withdrawal within three months of all foreign troops and mercenaries.
That deadline passed on Saturday, with no movement announced or observed on the ground.
The UN estimates there are still some 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries in Libya helping the warring factions, the UN-recognized Government of National Accord in Tripoli and military strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east. The GNA has received military support from Turkey. Haftar has the backing of Russia.
Guterres called on all parties to implement the terms of the cease-fire “without delay,” something he noted “includes ensuring the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya, and the full and unconditional respect of the Security Council arms embargo,” which has been in place since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted and killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi.

HIGHLIGHT

The UN estimates there are still some 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries in Libya helping the warring factions.

Any withdrawal or end to foreign interference “does not depend on the Libyans but on the outside powers,” said Khaled Al-Montasser, professor of international relations at Tripoli University.
Turkey on Friday welcomed a deal reached at UN-backed talks for Libya’s warring factions to set up an interim executive to rule the North African country until polls in December.
Turkey has backed the GNA with military advisers, materiel and mercenaries, repelling an advance on Tripoli by Haftar’s forces, and it also has a military base in Al-Watiya on the border with Tunisia under a 2019 military accord.
Last December, parliament in Ankara extended by 18 months its authorization for Turkey’s troop deployment in Libya, in apparent disregard of the cease-fire deal.
“The mercenaries are unlikely to leave Libya so long as the countries which have engaged them have not guaranteed their interests in the new transitional phase,” said Montasser, referring to the multiple tracks of UN-sponsored talks currently underway.
“Their presence keeps alive the threat of military confrontation at any moment, while the current calm staying in place seems uncertain,” he said.
Most of the foreign forces are concentrated around Sirte, at Al-Jufra airbase held by Haftar’s forces 500 km south of Tripoli and further west in Al-Watiya.