Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Palestine and Arab countries stand in solidarity with Beirut


By The Palestine Monitor - August 06, 2020
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has declared a national day of mourning on Wednesday to show solidarity for Lebanon after a massive chemical explosion decimated the capital city of Beirut on 4 August.


Abbas also expressed his willingness to provide all possible assistance to help Lebanon deal with the tragedy which has seen 135 people killed and over 5000 injured. 


The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear. Officials linked the blast to some 2,750 tonnes of confiscated ammonium nitrate that were being stored in a warehouse at the port for six years.


Shockwaves of the mushroom-cloud explosion ripped through the port city and were reportedly felt in Cyprus, over 193km away. Experts expect the death toll to rise as victims are found amongst the rubble.


Beirut's city governor Marwan Abboud said up to 300,000 people have lost their homes and authorities are working on providing them with food, water and shelter. Many hospitals have been overwhelmed with dealing with injured people, with many having emergency care administered in the streets. 


Adding to the severity of the crisis, the blast has destroyed vital grain silos which, according to the Lebanese economy minister, Raoul Nehme, has left the country with less than a month’s grain reserves. However, he has claimed there is no risk of food shortage. “There is no bread or flour crisis,” he said. “We have enough inventory and boats on their way to cover the needs of Lebanon [in] the long term.”


Several Arab countries stepped in to offer aid to Lebanon, which has been beset by a second wave of COVID-19 cases plunging the country into a second lock-down.  


Lebanon is also facing economic and financial collapse, fueled by government corruption, austerity measures, and a lack of basic infrastructure, which has seen high rates of inflation as the price of the Lira has been devalued by up to 85 per cent. 


On Tuesday night, Egypt lit up its pyramids in the colours of the Lebanese flag, while on Wednesday morning, a convoy full of medical supplies left the country for Beirut. Jordan, Qatar, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia also offered their support. 


Mohammad Barakeh, the head of the High Follow-Up Committee, an umbrella organisation that represents the country’s Palestinian citizens sent his condolences saying Beirut is “in our hearts”.


“The High Follow-Up Committee stands with the Lebanese people in the disaster that befell them. We are very saddened by what happened in wounded Lebanon, which has always embraced the Palestinian people.” 


“We send our condolences to our Lebanese brethren and wish a speedy recovery to the injured. It is our duty to help as much as we can,” Barakeh added.


According to +972Mag, Barakeh has begun to contact Lebanese politicians as well as the Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ashraf Dabbour, in an attempt to send a delegation of Palestinian medical experts from Israel. The High Follow-Up Committee also published a statement saying: “We are ready to send medical teams, dozens of doctors are ready to go out and assist in their various areas of expertise.”


Yet Barakeh is waiting to see whether his plan will come to fruition. “This is a complicated matter,” he told Local Call. “We need [the] consent of the two governments, Lebanon and Israel. There is a 50 per cent chance that the delegation will set out.”


Reports of governmental negligence have begun to emerge concerning the knowledge over the instability of the ammonium nitrate. Records suggest officials inspecting the chemicals warned as recently as six months ago that if it was not moved it would “blow up all of Beirut”.


The revelation that government negligence may have played a role in the worst explosion in Beirut’s history fuelled new anger towards Lebanon’s political class among a population already seething at an ongoing financial crisis that has sunk half the country into poverty. 


Demonstrators in downtown Beirut attacked the convoy of former Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri and brawled with his bodyguards in the most overt display of wider anger that is building against Lebanese politicians in the wake of the disaster.

 

 

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