Israel offers bitter rival Lebanon aid after blasts

Israel on Tuesday offered humanitarian aid to Lebanon, with which it is still technically at war, following the huge explosions that rocked Beirut, killing dozens of people and wounding thousands.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had instructed his National Security Council to make contact with UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov “in order to clarify how Israel can further assist Lebanon”.

Earlier, Defence Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said Israel had “offered the Lebanese government — via international intermediaries — medical and humanitarian aid, as well as immediate emergency assistance”.

President Reuven Rivlin said: “We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time.”

The offers come after two weeks of heightened tensions between the rival neighbours.

Last week, Israel accused the Lebanese group Hezbollah of trying to send gunmen across the UN-demarcated “Blue Line” border and said it held the Beirut government responsible for what it termed an attempted “terrorist” attack.

Hezbollah and Israel last fought a 33-day war in the summer of 2006.

Lebanon’s General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim said Tuesday’s blasts may have been caused by explosive materials confiscated years ago and stored at the city’s port.