Timeline: International Community Response to Beirut Explosion

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4th August 2020, an enormous explosion at Beirut's port that killed more than 170 people, injured thousands and caused widespread destruction,

Almost 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stored for years in Beirut's port exploded. Documents have emerged that show the country's top leadership and security officials knew about the hazardous of the stockpile.

5th August – Lebanese parliament declares a two-week state of emergency.

9th August – Axel van Trotsenburg, Managing Director, Operations at the World Bank’s International Conference on Support to Beirut and the Lebanese people announces that the World Bank has undertaken “a Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment…could serve as a basis for an economic and social reconstruction plan that addresses short- and medium-term needs.  In doing so, we are working closely with our counterparts, the IMF, the UN, the EU and other partners with a view to finalize the assessment by August 20, 2020”.

8th August – Anti-establishment protests in Lebanon see the Lebanese army, Internal Security Forces, and armed plain-clothes officers use excessive force leaving 728 injured, some seriously. Journalists were also reportedly assaulted by state forces.

9th AugustFrance’s Ambassador to Lebanon, Bruno Foucher, announces that France will take part in the investigation, 46 officers operating as part of the judicial investigation started by a French prosecutor as a French national, Jean-Marc Bonfils, was killed in the blast and others injured. It is “a guarantee of impartiality and speed” Foucher states.

10th August – The Lebanese Daily Star produces a list of donations made from the international community. The list reveals the following donations from major international organisations:

  • EU – Activating a program that helps countries after natural disasters; over 100 firefighters are being deployed with vehicles, dogs and equipment for search and rescue; activated Copernicus satellite mapping system to help assess the damage. The head of the EU executive said it is ready to help Lebanon with preferential trade and customs backing.
  • UN – Releasing $9 million from the Lebanese Humanitarian Fund and additional funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund. Deploying teams to assist with the emergency response.
  • World Food Programme – Plans to import wheat flour and grains for bakeries and mills to help protect against food shortages.
  • WHO, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies sent medical supplies, including personal protective equipment, medicine and surgical equipment. The WHO is appealing for $15 million to cover emergency health needs in Lebanon.
  • World Bank said it would work with Lebanon's partners to mobilise financing for reconstruction and recovery, and "would be also willing to reprogram existing resources and explore additional financing to support rebuilding lives and livelihoods of people impacted by this disaster".
  • IMF said it is exploring all possible ways to support the Lebanese people

12th August – The involvement of the French public prosecution was due to the existence of French casualties, she said, giving the investigation an international angle. French Ambassador Bruno Foucher, in a tweet, went as far as calling the French involvement "a guarantee of impartiality in the investigations and of speed".

Investigations initially proceeded under the military court, and 19 people were arrested including the current and former customs chiefs and the head of the Beirut port authority.

According to the Lebanese Daily Star, “international powers have launched behind-the-scene contacts with Lebanese and regional players aimed at facilitating the formation of a new government”

Lebanon, with its multi-religious confessional parliamentary system is vulnerable to extended periods without a government being formed.

13th AugustUS Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale stated that the FBI will join Lebanese and other international investigators in the probe into the causes of the explosion. The diplomat made the announcement as he toured Beirut’s Gemmayzeh neighbourhood, which was damaged by the blast.

Hale: “"The FBI will soon join Lebanese and international investigators at the invitation of the Lebanese in order to help answer questions that I know everyone has about the circumstances that led up to this explosion"

Lebanon’s parliament confirms the ongoing state of emergency in a move that grants sweeping powers to the army. Under the state of emergency, judicial proceedings will take place in Lebanon’s military courts, which Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have shown do not meet indernational standards on due process.

14th August – Diplomats from the US, France and Iran hold separate talks with Lebanese officials to confirm their countries' humanitarian support and discuss Lebanon's political crisis.




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