US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday commemorated the 30th anniversary of the suicide bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut, and hailed the close relations that exist between Washington and Lebanon as proof that “the enemies of democracy failed.”
In a State Department press release, Kerry blasted Hezbollah, which he said “hoped through these violent attacks to deter the United States from maintaining our strong relationship with the Lebanese people.”
On the afternoon of April 18, 1983, a Hezbollah suicide bomber drove a van containing some 2,000 pounds of explosives into the embassy and detonated them, killing 52 embassy personnel and 11 visitors. The bombing was, at that time, the largest attack ever on a US diplomatic facility. Seventeen of those killed were US citizens. Additionally, over 120 people were injured in the attack.
Later that year 241 US Marines were killed when a suicide bomber attacked their barracks in Beirut. In September 1984, a second attack on the US Embassy in Beirut killed 20.
“The last 30 years of close cooperation between the United States and Lebanon — especially at the people-to-people level — proves the terrorists’ goals were not achieved,” said Kerry.
“All the Americans lost in these acts of terror had come in peace.” said Kerry. “They and our cherished Lebanese colleagues made the ultimate sacrifice through their service.”
On Thursday, a memorial ceremony was held at the US Embassy in Lebanon to commemorate the attack. Ambassador Maura Connelly led the ceremony in which wreaths were laid in honor of the victims at the embassy memorial.
“The Americans and Lebanese working in Embassy Beirut in 1983 were striving to return stability to Lebanon and the region,” Connelly said. “The very presence of the embassy in the midst of the war underway in Lebanon was an assertion of hope – that Lebanon would soon return to normal life.”
She added that “even today, Lebanon’s normalcy is a fragile thing that requires constant attention.”
Comparing the situation in Lebanon 30 years to that in Syria today, Connelly said that “violence and destruction come as the result when mechanisms for bringing about change, addressing grievances, alleviating tensions, and reducing frustrations have all failed. Once the cycle begins, it is difficult to break.”