Beirut, Lebanon – The leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group on Friday denied involvement in the recent release of a Lebanese-American man accused of overseeing the torture of thousands of Lebanese during the Israeli occupation of Lebanon.
Hezbollah Secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah said that his organisation had no prior knowledge of the military court’s decision earlier this week to release Amer Fahkhoury, the commander of the notorious Khiam Prison from the 1980s until the 1990s, when he was a member of the South Lebanon Army (SLA), an Israeli proxy.
Instead, the leader of the most powerful force in Lebanon said he had learned of the decision “on television, and then made calls to inquire about it”.
Lebanon military court drops charges against ‘Butcher of Khiam’
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“There was American pressure, and some people were weak,” he said.
Fakhoury left Lebanon on Thursday on board a US Army helicopter that departed from the US Embassy north of Beirut, following his release on March 16.
He had been detained after entering Lebanon in September and was charged with kidnapping, imprisoning and torturing inmates at Khiam.
The court, headed by Brigadier-General Hussien Abdallah, however, dropped the charges saying the statute of limitations had passed.
Lebanese prison guards arrested for torturing inmates
The US had been pushing for the release of Fakhoury, who is also referred to as the “Butcher of Khiam”. Two senators sponsored a bill that would have seen sanctions imposed on Lebanese officials involved in his detention.
Nasrallah also said the US had threatened economic sanctions at a time of crushing economic crisis, and amid fears of such measures being imposed due to US President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure campaign” against Iran and its affiliates.
He said some Lebanese officials had come to him and asked him whether charges against Fakhoury could be dropped, in order to secure his release at a time when Lebanon could not bear any more pressure.
Nasrallah said he opposed such a decision on moral grounds, but also because it would encourage the US to bully Lebanon with the threat of sanctions in the future.
‘Thank you, Lebanese government’
Fakhoury’s release sparked outrage in Lebanon, which was under Israeli occupation from 1982 till 2000 and is officially still at war with Israel.
Many saw the timing of Fakhoury’s release – as the country is in a partial lockdown over the global coronavirus pandemic – as intentional to contain public anger.
Several prominent journalists and politicians, including some supporters of Hezbollah, said a decision of this scale could not have been made without the implicit approval of the party and its allies, who have control over the Parliament and government.
Hezbollah and its allies – the Amal Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) – who are represented by most ministers in government – have all condemned the decision.
The FPM also specifically denied its leader, MP Gebran Bassil, had any role in Fakhoury’s release, following reports suggesting his direct involvement.
Trump had thanked the Lebanese government for their apparent cooperation in Fakhoury’s release on Thursday, saying, “We are very thankful to the Lebanese government, they worked with us.”
Lebanon’s Information Minister did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.
Former detainees of the pro-Israel South Lebanon Army (SLA) militia hold posters depicting former SLA member Amer Fakhoury during a demonstration in Beirut in September 2019 [File: Aanwar Amro/AFP]
Nasrallah said criticisms of Hezbollah, a group that fought the SLA and Israel for decades, were part of a campaign aimed at breaking the confidence of its supporters towards the group.
“We had no knowledge of any deal, and we know that there was no deal,” Nasrallah said.
Hezbollah had condemned the decision to release Fakhoury from the outset, saying in a statement that the military judges who agreed to drop charges against Fakhoury should have resigned instead of bowing to US pressure.
On Friday, Military Tribunal head Abdallah announced his resignation, saying he had only been implementing the law and was leaving his post out of respect for the military.
It was part of a string of developments aimed at containing the fallout from the scandal.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab wrote on social media that “the crime of collaborating with the Israeli enemy cannot be forgotten”.
Defence Minister Zeina Akar said she would amend Lebanon’s penal code to remove a statute of limitations on “aggression against Lebanon,” and would add language concerning crimes against humanity, which Fakhoury is accused of.
On Friday, former inmates at Khiam Prison filed suits against anyone involved in Fakhoury’s release – specifically including politicians and members of the military court – for crimes including “conspiracy with a foreign state”.
Hezbollah, Hamas chiefs meet to discuss Israel-Arab ties |NationalTribune.com
Leaders of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and the Palestinian Hamas group met to discuss diplomatic normalisation between Israel and Arab countries, the movement said. On Sunday, Hamas chief Ismail Haniya was given a hero’s welcome at Ain al-Helweh, Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp. Hezbollah-run Al-Manar television reported earlier that Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Iran-backed Shia…
Leaders of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and the Palestinian Hamas group met to discuss diplomatic normalisation between Israel and Arab countries, the movement said.
On Sunday, Hamas chief Ismail Haniya was given a hero’s welcome at Ain al-Helweh, Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp.
Hezbollah-run Al-Manar television reported earlier that Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Iran-backed Shia Hezbollah movement, and Haniya stressed the “stability” of the “axis of resistance” against Israel.
They discussed “political and military developments in Palestine, Lebanon and the region” and “the dangers to the Palestinian cause”, including “Arab plans for normalisation” with Israel, Al-Manar said.
The meeting comes after an August 13 announcement that Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have agreed to normalise ties.
While the United States-backed diplomatic drive aims to boost a regional alliance against Iran, Palestinians have condemned it as a “stab in the back” as they remain under occupation and do not have their own state.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his country is in talks with other Arab and Muslim leaders now about normalising relations, following the deals with the UAE and, decades ago, Egypt and Jordan.
First visit in 30 years
Haniya arrived in Lebanon on Wednesday, on his first visit to the country in nearly 30 years, for direct and video-conference talks with other Palestinian groups that oppose Israel’s diplomatic initiative.
Haniya, who heads the political bureau of Hamas, the movement that controls the Gaza Strip, arrived in Ain al-Helweh under the protection of Hamas members and camp guards.
Before a cheering crowd of hundreds in Ain al-Helweh, near the southern coastal city of Sidon, including refugees who travelled to see him from other camps, Haniya praised his movement’s military capacity and shrugged off the UAE-Israel normalisation deal.
“Not long ago, our rockets only reached [targets] metres from Gaza’s borders. Today, the resistance in Gaza possesses rockets that can reach Tel Aviv and beyond Tel Aviv,” he said.
As for normalisation between Israel and Arab countries, that “does not represent the people, neither their conscience, nor their history nor their heritage”, Haniya said, quoted in a Hamas statement.
Israel’s military has in recent weeks targeted Hamas in the Gaza Strip and what it says have been Hezbollah gunmen along its northern border with Lebanon.
It also regularly launches air attacks in war-torn Syria against what it says are Hezbollah and other pro-Iranian fighters fighting on the side of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Nasrallah has been living in secret locations since Hezbollah’s devastating 2006 war with Israel and only makes rare public appearances. He said in 2014 that he often changes his place of residence.
UN tribunal: Hezbollah member guilty in Rafik Hariri killing |NationalTribune.com
A United Nations-backed tribunal has found a member of the Lebanese group Hezbollah guilty of assassinating former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in a massive bomb blast in 2005. While Salim Ayyash was convicted, the three other Hezbollah suspects were cleared of the charges on Tuesday. The verdict by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) -…
A United Nations-backed tribunal has found a member of the Lebanese group Hezbollah guilty of assassinating former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in a massive bomb blast in 2005.
While Salim Ayyash was convicted, the three other Hezbollah suspects were cleared of the charges on Tuesday.
The verdict by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) – an international court based near The Hague, Netherlands – came more than 15 years after Hariri was killed on February 14, 2005, along with 21 others in the huge explosion in the capital, Beirut.
The four members of the Iran-backed group and political party were accused of organising and carrying out the attack, although the group was not formally charged and it denied any involvement.
“We accept the verdict of the tribunal and want justice to be implemented,” said former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, adding that he wants “just punishment” for the criminals.
Hariri said those who assassinated his father aimed to “change the face of Lebanon and its system and its civilised identity” and said there will be “no compromise” on this matter.
The four members – Salim Ayyash, Assad Sabra, Hassan Oneissi, and Hassan Habib Merhi – were tried in absentia as Hezbollah refused to disclose their whereabouts.
Ayyash used a mobile phone identified by prosecutors as critical in the attack, a judge said.
The STL is “satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt” the evidence showed that Ayyash used the phone, Judge Micheline Braidy said, reading a summary of the 2,600-page verdict.
However, prosecutors provided insufficient evidence to prove the three others were accomplices, said Judge Janet Nosworthy.
‘Designed to cause fear’
Presiding Judge David Re said the evidence was largely based on mobile phone network data with the suspects accused of tracking Hariri’s movements in the months leading up to the attack, and the phones going “dark” after the blast.
Judge Nosworthy said four different networks of mobile phones “were interconnected and coordinated with each other, and operated as covert networks at the relevant times”.
The court found the killing was politically motivated in an “act of terrorism designed to cause fear in the Lebanese population”.
“The tribunal has found beyond a reasonable doubt that a suicide bomber triggered the blast,” said Re, reading out the verdict.
The assassination plunged Lebanon into what was then its worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war, setting the stage for years of confrontation between rival political factions.
Syrian forces, which were based in Lebanon for more than 40 years, were forced to withdraw from the country as many Lebanese blamed Damascus for the killing.
The government of Bashar al-Assad has denied any involvement.
The tribunal exonerated the leadership of Hezbollah and Syria citing a lack of evidence.
“The trial chamber is of the view that Syria and Hezbollah may have had motives to eliminate Mr Hariri and some of his political allies,” said Re.
“However, there was no evidence Hezbollah’s leadership had any involvement in Mr Hariri’s murder, and there is no direct evidence of Syrian involvement in it.”
According to Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, the verdict “indirectly points the finger at Hezbollah”. The UN court is not allowed to indict countries, governments or organisations, but can only issue verdicts on individuals, she said.
It is not clear, however, what the ruling’s real consequences will be, Khodr said.
Following the UN tribunal’s decision, Lebanon is meant to hand over Ayyash, but the government, where Hezbollah and its allies hold political power, is not expected to do so.
The group’s secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly said he would not hand over any member of the movement, insisting last week on the innocence of the suspects and describing the tribunal as a conspiracy against the group.
If the case is then referred to the UN Security Council, its internal division would make it impossible to implement the verdict.
“So …will Lebanon’s international relations be affected taking into account that Hezbollah and its allies control political power?” Khodr said. “Or will this open the door to some sort of compromise between Hezbollah and the former PM Hariri who is now in the opposition and a possible candidate to head the next government?”
‘Go after the leadership’
Toby Cadman, an international human rights lawyer, said the tribunal did not shed new light on the killing, but was noteworthy for being the first trial of its kind to rely entirely on “cell site analysis” as evidence.
He noted after all the time and money spent, only mid to low-level perpetrators were convicted in the assassination.
“If you go back to the beginning of the trial, in the opening speech of the prosecutor there was a reference to the Syrian regime, so there was an attempt to implicate the Assad regime and to go after the leadership. Unfortunately, whether it is a lack of independent evidence to produce such a link is anyone’s guess,” Cadman told Al Jazeera.
“From the outside perspective, there would have been more satisfaction after close to $1bn spent that it would have gone after those who actually ordered it.”
Initially, five suspects were identified – all Hezbollah members. Charges against one of the group’s top military commanders, Mustafa Badreddine, were dropped after he was killed in Syria in 2016.
Ayyash’s sentence will be handed down at a later date. The UN-backed court has no death penalty and maximum jail sentences are life imprisonment.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah denies storing arms at blast site: Live |NationalTribune.com
Lebanese president says blast probe looking into external interference among possible causes, in addition to simple negligence or an accident. Lebanese authorities have taken into custody 16 people as part of an investigation into the Beirut port warehouse explosion that shook the capital, state news agency NNA reported. The Lebanese government has given an investigative…
Lebanese president says blast probe looking into external interference among possible causes, in addition to simple negligence or an accident.
Lebanese authorities have taken into custody 16 people as part of an investigation into the Beirut port warehouse explosion that shook the capital, state news agency NNA reported.
The Lebanese government has given an investigative committee four days to determine responsibility for the blast, Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe told French radio.
French President Emmanuel Macron offered France’s support for the Lebanese people on a visit to Beirut, but said crisis-hit Lebanon would “continue to sink” unless its leaders carry out reforms.
Health Minister Hamad Hassan said at least 154 people have been killed in the explosion and 5,000 others injured, but the number is expected to rise as search-and-rescue operations continued for missing people.
Here are the latest updates:
Friday, August 7
19:06 GMT – Dozens of fireworks were stored in port hangar, former port workers says
A former port worker told the Guardian that dozens of bags of fireworks were stored in the same hangar as the “thousands of tonnes of ammonium nitrate” at Beirut’s port and may have been a decisive factor in igniting the chemical which fuelled the explosion.
“There were 30 to 40 nylon bags of fireworks inside warehouse 12,” Yusuf Shehadi said, adding that he personally saw the delivery of the fireworks which had been confiscated by customs about a decade ago.
“They were on the left-hand side when you entered the door. I used to complain about this. It wasn’t safe. There was also humidity there. This was a disaster waiting to happen,” Shehadi was quoted as saying.
He also said that had been instructed by the Lebanese army to house the ammonium nitrate chemical in warehouse 12 at the port, the Guardian reported, despite calls by state security officials and customs personnel urging the removal of the substance.
General view of damaged site is seen as search and rescue operations continue after a fire at a warehouse with explosives at the Port of Beirut led to massive blasts [Houssam Shbaro/Anadolu]
19:03 GMT – No Beirut blast inquiry request, says UN after Macron call for probe
The United Nations has not received any requests to investigate the deadly explosion in Beirut’s port, a UN spokesman said after French President Emmanuel Macron called for an international inquiry.
Initial Lebanese probes have pointed to an ammonium nitrate cargo, which was abandoned in Beirut, as the source of the blast. During a visit to Beirut on Thursday, Macron said that a transparent international inquiry was needed.
“We would be willing to consider such a request if we were to receive one. Nothing like that has been received, however,” UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres could also establish an inquiry if mandated by a UN legislative body such as the 193-member General Assembly or the 15-member Security Council.
“Our anger will only stop…if we see those b*stards in prison.” This #Beirut resident told us live on air why so many are furious with Lebanon’s authorities after she lost four neighbours in Tuesday’s blast.Follow our LIVE blog 👉 https://t.co/Ry4ynw00du pic.twitter.com/f1uyhnCS7q
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) August 7, 2020
16:20 GMT – Trump, Macron, discussed sending Lebanon immediate aid
US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed working together with other countries to send immediate aid to Lebanon during a phone call, White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.
Deere said the two leaders “expressed their deep sadness over the loss of life and devastation in Beirut”.
14:48 GMT – How Beirut’s firefighters were sent to the site of the explosion
About five minutes before 6pm (15:00 GMT) on Tuesday, Beirut’s fire brigade received a call from the police, who told them that witnesses had spotted smoke billowing out of the city’s port.
A team of 10 was ordered to respond to a fire at the Beirut port. They did not know what they were heading for.
Read more about the fate of the firefighters and the paramedic who accompanied them here.
14:44 GMT – Hezbollah leader denies claims that warehouse had group’s weapons
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah strongly denied claims that the armed group had any weapons stored at the warehouse prior to the explosion, adding that that the investigation will soon “reveal the truth” behind the deadly blast.
“We have nothing in the port: not an arms depot, nor a missile depot nor missiles nor rifles nor bombs nor bullets nor ammonium nitrate,” Nasrallah said in televised speech. “Our people are among those injured and killed in the blast.”
Nasrallah called for accountability and noted that there is a “consensus” for a just and transparent investigation.
“Anyone responsible should be held to account … Nobody should be protected,” he said.
The armed group’s secretary-general said that the Beirut blast was an exceptional event in Lebanon’s modern history and that should be dealt with as such.
“All of Hezbollah’s personnel and institutions … are under the state and the municipality’s disposal,” Nasrallah said.
14:22 GMT – Lebanon president rejects calls for international probe
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun rejected calls for an international probe into the massive port blast, after world leaders and Lebanese nationals abroad and at home pressed for an impartial investigation.
When asked by a journalist during a televised interview if he thought an international probe would dilute the “truth”, the president answered, “of course”.
Moments later on his Facebook page, the president spelled out his position further, saying, “the goal behind calls for an international investigation into the port issue is to dilute the truth.”
14:16 GMT – Calls for mass protests amid relief efforts
Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Beirut, said people have little faith in the state’s investigation so far.
“The priority now is to provide aid to those in need. It is the people, the people are in the streets, they’re providing aid, they’re clearing the debris, they’re giving people food,” Khodr said.
“The government is absent, the state is absent … So people are becoming really angry and they’re already starting to mobilise. In fact there are calls for a mass protest tomorrow afternoon.”
People sit in a car driving near the site of Tuesday’s blast in Beirut’s port area, Lebanon [Hannah McKay/Reuters]
13:48 GMT – ‘We need early elections’: Lebanese MP
Paula Yacoubian, a Lebanese member of parliament, dismissed the President Michel Aoun’s remarks as “lip service”.
“They [president, aides] lost any legitimacy they used to have … Beirut needs from this government to go away and to leave this country,” Yacoubian told Al Jazeera.
“It’s the political parties who need to step down and say ‘we have failed you’ … We need early elections as soon as possible.”
13:24 GMT – US says sending immediate $15m in food, medicine to Lebanon
The United States said it would would send an immediate $15m worth of food and medicine to help Lebanon after Beirut’s massive port blast.
The aid, to be transported through the US military, amounts to three months’ worth of food for 50,000 people and three months’ worth of medicine for 60,000 people, the US Agency for International Development said.
Hello, this is Farah Najjar taking over from my colleague Linah Alsaafin.
12:15 GMT – UN wants independent probe into Beirut blast
The UN human rights office is calling for an independent investigation into the Beirut explosion, insisting “victims’ calls for accountability must be heard”.
Spokesman Rupert Colville of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights cited the need for the international community to “step up” to help Lebanon with both a quick response and sustained engagement.
He said Lebanon is facing the “triple tragedy of a socio-economic crisis, COVID-19 and the ammonium nitrate explosion” that devastated the capital on Tuesday.
11:45 GMT – EU chief Michel heading to Beirut on Saturday
The president of the European Council, which represents EU leaders, Charles Michel, will head to Beirut on Saturday as Brussels readies to support the Lebanese capital after a devastating explosion.
“Shocked and saddened, we stand with all those affected and will provide help,” Michel tweeted, announcing meetings with President Michel Aoun, parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Hassan Diab.
Traveling to #Beirut tomorrow to convey Europe’s solidarity with the people in #Lebanon. Shocked and saddened, we stand with all those affected and will provide help. Will meet with President Aoun, Speaker of Parliament Berri and President of Council of Ministers Diab. pic.twitter.com/bKdULdPSNE
— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) August 7, 2020
11:20 GMT – Lebanese president says blast probe looking into external interference among possible causes
Lebanon’s president said an investigation into the Beirut port warehouse explosion was looking at whether it was caused by negligence, an accident or possible external interference, his office cited him as telling local media.
“The cause has not been determined yet. There is a possibility of external interference through a rocket or bomb or other act,” President Michel Aoun said.
He said the probe into Tuesday’s blast at a warehouse housing highly-explosive material was being conducted on three levels.
“First, how the explosive material entered and was stored … second whether the explosion was a result of negligence or an accident … and third the possibility that there was external interference.”
11:00 GMT – WHO appeals for $15mn aid for Lebanon
The World Health Organization (WHO) is appealing for $15mn to cover emergency health needs in Lebanon following the Beirut port explosion .
The blast destroyed 17 containers holding WHO medical supplies including personal protective equipment, the agency’s regional office for the Middle East said in a statement .
Five hospitals in the area affected by Tuesday’s blast are either not functioning or partially functioning, and early reports indicate that many health centres and primary care facilities are also damaged or out of action, it said.
The WHO, together with the American University of Beirut, is planning an environmental assessment on the impact of the fumes caused by the explosion of ammonium nitrate.
10:45 GMT – US pledges over $17mn in initial disaster aid for Lebanon
The United States has pledged over $17mn in initial disaster aid for Lebanon, following Tuesday’s Beirut port explosion, the US embassy said.
It said in a statement that the aid included food assistance, medical supplies and financial assistance for the Lebanese Red Cross. “Announcements of additional aid and assistance are forthcoming,” it added.
10:15 GMT – Lebanon navigates food challenge with no grain silo and few stocks
Beirut’s blast destroyed Lebanon’s only port-based grains silo, with plans for another in the country’s second largest port Tripoli shelved years ago due to a lack of funding, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representative in Lebanon said.
“There are smaller storage sites within the private sector millers because they have to store wheat before it is milled into flour,” Maurice Saade told Reuters.
“In terms of grain silos, that was the only major one.”
The destruction of the 120,000-tonne capacity structure and disabling of the port, the main entry point for food imports, means buyers will have to rely on smaller privately-owned storage facilities for their wheat purchases, exacerbating concerns about food supplies. Lebanon, a nation of more than six million people, imports almost all of its wheat.
09:50 GMT – UN agencies scramble to support Beirut blast victims
UN agencies are scrambling to support victims of the devastating warehouse blast in Beirut, which has undermined an already weak healthcare system in Lebanon, officials said.
Damage to hospitals has removed 500 beds of capacity, a World Health Organization spokesman told a virtual United Nations briefing. Containers with thousands of personal protection equipment (PPE) items – used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – have also been destroyed.
Meanwhile UNICEF said 100,000 children have had their homes damaged and are displaced in Beirut., while 120 schools serving 55,000 children are in various states of damage.
Beirut blast: Families desperate for news on missing relatives
08:50 GMT – World Food Programme plans wheat imports for Beirut
The World Food Programme (WFP) plans to import wheat flour and grains for bakeries and mills to help protect against food shortages across Lebanon after a blast wrecked its main port in Beirut, the United Nations agency said.
“WFP is concerned that the explosion and the damage to the port will exacerbate an already grim food security situation – that has worsened because of the country’s profound financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic,” a spokeswoman said in notes prepared for a UN briefing in Geneva, adding it would be providing food parcels to thousands of families.
“WFP also stands ready to offer supply chain management and logistical support and expertise to Lebanon,” it said.
08:15 GMT – Tens of thousands sign petition calling for Lebanon to be placed under French mandate
As of Friday 08:15 GMT, at least 58,000 people have signed an online petition set up by Lebanese citizens on Wednesday to “place Lebanon under a French mandate for the next 10 years”
“Lebanon’s officials have clearly shown a total inability to secure and manage the country,” the petition reads. “With a failing system, corruption, terrorism and militia the country has just reached its last breath.”
“We believe Lebanon should go back under the French mandate in order to establish a clean and durable governance.”
However, other citizens denounced the petition as a means to continue French colonialism.
#لبنان/ موجعة جدا زيارة #ماكرون، خصوصا كأول رئيس دولة يزور لبنان بعد الانفجار. زيارة تؤكد الرابط الاستعماري بين الدولتين. زيارة مهينة لتاريخنا وحاضرنا، ننسى ان ما يمر به لبنان يتجذر في مخلفات الاستعمار الفرنسي، وما زرعه الاستعمار في انفسنا ووجداننا وثقافتنا ورؤيتنا. ٤/١
— Leil-Zahra Mortada (@LeilZahra) August 6, 2020
Translation: [Emmanuel] Macron’s visit is very painful, especially as the first head of state to visit Lebanon after the explosion. His visit confirms the colonial link between the two countries, and it is humiliating to our history and our present. We forget that what Lebanon is going through is rooted in the remnants of French colonialism, and what that colonialism has planted in ourselves, our conscience, our culture and our vision.
07:30 GMT – Rescuers plough on through Beirut debris as hope fades for survivors
Members of Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) start to search and rescue works at the port of Beirut [Anadolu Agency]
Lebanese rescue workers and army soldiers are struggling to remove huge items of debris in search for possible survivors at Beirut’s port.
The Lebanese Red Cross believes there are still 100 people missing, most of who were working at Beirut’s port.
“We are doing our best as we are hoping to find people alive and trapped, but all we have found so far are the remains of people beyond recognition,” said a rescue worker, who said he has been working non-stop for the past 48 hours.
“Some foreign countries are sending help, but it might be too late for the people who may still be trapped under the debris,” he said.
06:48 GMT – Lebanese bride happy to be alive after blast cuts short wedding video
Israa Seblani, a 29-year-old doctor working in the United States, arrived in Lebanon three weeks ago to prepare for her wedding.
Her bridal photo shoot was cut short and captured the Beirut explosion that took place on Tuesday. Seblani, in her long veil and white wedding dress, helped to check on the injured nearby, before fleeing central Beirut’s Saifi square to safety.
Video of bride on wedding day in Beirut captures moment massive warehouse explosion ripped through the city pic.twitter.com/ZsH20S4TGt
— Reuters (@Reuters) August 5, 2020
“There is a lot of damage, many people were killed and wounded. But also if I want to look at us, myself, my husband, the photographer – how we escaped unharmed, I thank God for protecting us.”
“This alone makes me feel optimistic and to keep the joy of the occasion that I came here to celebrate.”
Hello, this is Linah Alsaafin in Doha taking over from my colleague Zaheena Rasheed.
04:19 GMT – Four Filipinos killed, 31 injured
At least four Filipinos were killed in the Beirut explosion and two others were in critical condition, according to the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs.
A total of 31 Filipinos were injured in the blast, the office said.
02:10 GMT – Beirut resident vents fury at Lebanese leaders
A Beirut resident has told Al Jazeera live on air why so many are furious with Lebanon’s authorities after she lost four neighbours in Tuesday’s explosion.
“Our anger will only stop…if we see those b******* in prison,” she said.
Beirut resident’s fury at Lebanese authorities (2:25)
01:47 GMT – Ex-captain of cargo ship blames Lebanese authorities for blast
Boris Prokoshev, the former captain of the ship that brought almost 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate to Beirut, said Lebanese authorities were “very well” aware of the dangers posed by the vessel’s cargo.
“It’s the government of Lebanon that brought about this situation,” Prokoshev told The Associated Press news agency from his home in the Krasnodar region of Russia.
His ship, the MV Rhosus, was not supposed to be in Lebanon at all, he said.
Boris Prokoshev, a sea captain, poses for a photo after his interview with The Associated Press outside Sochi, Russia [Kirill Lemekh/ AP]
When it set sail from the Georgian Black Sea port of Batumi, the ship was bound for the Mozambiquan port of Beira. But the Rhosus made a stop in Beirut to try to earn extra money by taking on several pieces of heavy machinery.
The machinery proved too heavy for the Rhosus, however, and the crew refused to take it on. The ship was soon impounded by the Lebanese authorities for failing to pay port fees, and never left the port again.
“They knew very well that there was dangerous cargo there,” Prokoshev said. “In my opinion, they should have even paid him [the owner of the boat] to take the dangerous cargo, a real headache, out of the port. But they just arrested the ship instead.”
00:54 GMT – EU releases $39m in emergency aid
The European Union announced the release of 33 million euros ($39m) in emergency aid to Lebanon to help cover the immediate needs of emergency services and hospitals in Beirut.
A donor conference is also planned to mobilise additional funding for reconstruction after an assessment of what is required, an EU source told the AFP news agency.
Thursday, August 6
23:38 GMT – Tear gas as protesters gather in downtown Beirut
Security forces have fired tear gas to disperse dozens of anti-government protesters calling for the Lebanese government’s resignation near the parliament building in Beirut.
The state-run National News Agency (NNA) said protesters set fires, vandalised stores and threw stones at security forces, prompting the officers to use tear gas.
Several people were wounded in the clashes, the agency said.
Riot police advance to push back anti-government protesters in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 7, 2020 [Hassan Ammar/ AP]
Anti-government protesters throw stones and clash with riot police in downtown Beirut [Hassan Ammar/ AP]
Anti-government protesters call for the resignation of Lebanon’s government [Hassan Ammar/ AP]
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the deadly explosion at Beirut port. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives.
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