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The Port of Beirut disaster – an analysis

The official report of the Lebanese authorities is that a warehouse near the water containing 2,750 tons of ammonia nitrate exploded.

They also claim that this material has been in the warehouse for over six years with the approval of the court. They have confirmed this claim with documents.

With all due respect to the Lebanese authorities, I do not buy this story. I believe that explosives, ammunition and missile fuel (which are highly volatile and flammable substances) were stored by Hezbollah in this warehouse after being shipped from Iran. I think there are several reasons for this:

1. There was a series of at least three explosions, each of which had a different result. The first created a gray column of smoke that remained for several minutes. The second, a column of red smoke that also remained for several minutes, while the third created a white mushroom cloud that dissipated within seconds. Therefore, there were at least three different materials stored in that warehouse.

2. Anyone familiar with how a port operates knows that the front row of warehouses, which are closest to the water, are used for short term storage. Cargo that is meant for long term storage is moved to warehouses which are further away from the water.

3. Anyone who ships sensitive cargo and does not want it to be seen, photographed or targeted by others – from the air, space or ground – tries to hide it as close as possible to the water, at the closest warehouse, and this is the warehouse which exploded.

4. Beirut seaport replaced Damascus Airport as the destination for Hezbollah to import ammunition and explosives from Iran, after Israel – according to foreign sources – attacked the warehouses at Damascus Airport several times. Therefore, what used to arrive at Damascus Airport is now brought to the seaport of Beirut by ship. The warehouses in the port of Beirut have replaced the warehouses of Damascus airport.

5. What probably happened on August 4 is an explosion of volatile and flammable materials which were incorrectly stored by Hezbollah for at least a day in a metal, un-airconditioned warehouse, when the temperatures are extremely high. I believe that missile-fuel fumes evaporated from a container and when they touched the hot wall or ceiling they ignited and created a chain reaction which caused the three explosions.

6. Less than an hour after the explosions, Hezbollah announced that the exploded material was nitrate. Hezbollah was the first to report it. The reason: Hezbollah was looking for a way to cover up its negligence and to establish the official version, because no one in the government would dare contradict them.

7. In my opinion, very few people in Lebanon “buy” the nitrate story. I think that Hassan Nasrallah is viewed by the Iranians and his friends in Hezbollah as personally responsible for this disaster. I would not be surprised to hear that he has suffered a “heart attack” and is thus ending his role as Hezbollah’s secretary general. Perhaps the “heart attack” will be fatal.

Header: Rhosus (background right) moored at Port of Beirut in 2017. The grain elevator is to the left, and an unidentified ship is in the center.

  • On 27 September 2013, the Moldovan-flagged cargo ship MV Rhosus, owned by Russian businessman Igor Grechushkin, set sail from Batumi, Georgia, to Beira, Mozambique, carrying 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertilizer.

Source: Dr. Mordechai Kedar – Sheva

Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He served for 25 years in IDF military intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups, Syria and Israeli Arabs, and is an expert on the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. Thoroughly familiar with Arab media in real time, he is frequently interviewed on the various news programs in Israel.