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    Massive Explosion Hits Beirut's Port, Leaving Dozens Dead and Thousands Injured (79)
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    Last month, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned that Israel would pay the price if it turns out that Tel Aviv was behind a powerful blast that ripped through Lebanon's capital Beirut on 4 August, killing at least 190 people. The Jewish state has repeatedly denied any involvement in the explosion, offering humanitarian aid to Lebanon.

    The Nation has cited Hezbollah members Abu Karim and Abu Naim as saying that the Lebanon-based Shia militant group was on the edge of war shortly after the deadly 4 August explosion hit the Lebanese capital Beirut.

    Both men have taken a nom de guerre, insisting on anonymity given that Hezbollah fighters are not authorised to speak to Western media.

    "In the first moments of the blast we thought we were under attack by Israel. We thought that this is it. It's on!", field commander Abu Karim told the US magazine.

    He added that all Hezbollah troops were immediately redeployed from the mountains to the coast in southern Lebanon, with rocket system operators "ordered to their missile sites and told to be ready to fire".

    A general view shows the damaged port area in the aftermath of a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, August 17, 2020.
    © REUTERS / ALKIS KONSTANTINIDIS
    A general view shows the damaged port area in the aftermath of a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, August 17, 2020.

    According to Karim, the next 45 minutes saw his fighters waiting nervously amid claims that Lebanon was hit by an Israeli airstrike, which were countered by allegations about an explosion inside the port.

    "Then the order came to stand down", he said, in what was echoed by Hezbollah fighter Abu Naim who told The Nation that he was conducting routine reconnaissance in civilian clothes with the rest of his unit as the blast ripped through Beirut.

    "Three of us were injured by the flying glass. We tried to protect our bodies but couldn't take much cover. It was like a state of war within seconds. There was lots of blood and people injured. It was a horror movie", Naim recalled.

    The 5 August satellite image of Beirut port after the blast
    © AFP 2020 / Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies
    The 5 August satellite image of Beirut port after the blast

    He said that his unit then nervously sat by the radio for at least twenty minutes, listening to contradicting explanations for the cause of the blast.

    "One minute we heard that it is an Israeli attack, the next we're told that it's not", Naim noted, adding that his unit was finally ordered to stand down and help with the emergency response by opening roads for ambulances. The south of Lebanon, however, continued to be on heightened alert at the time, according to Naim.

    The interviews come after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned in mid-August that Israel will pay the price if it turns out that the Jewish state was behind the Beirut blast, which Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said was caused by the improper storage of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate.

    The Israeli broadcaster, Channel 13, in turn, claimed at the time that Hezbollah sought to use the ammonium nitrate stored at the warehouse against the Jewish state, a claim that Nasrallah vehemently denied as Tel Aviv rejected allegations about its involvement in the explosion.

    Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, for his part, offered his condolences to the Lebanese people, while Israeli hospitals signaled their willingness to receive some patients from Beirut who were injured in the blast, which claimed the lives of at least 190 people. The Lebanese government refused to accept Tel Aviv’s humanitarian aid.

    In 2006, Israel and Hezbollah waged a 34-day war in Lebanon, northern Israel, and the Golan Heights before the United Nations brokered a ceasefire, with the conflict ending in a stalemate and both sides claiming victory. Since then, Tel Aviv has repeatedly carried out airstrikes inside Lebanon against Hezbollah targets, while the Shia militant group has launched rocket strikes on northern Israel and targeted Israeli border forces in hit-and-run attacks.

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    Massive Explosion Hits Beirut's Port, Leaving Dozens Dead and Thousands Injured (79)

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