At least three Israeli hospitals offered on Tuesday to help treat the thousands of Lebanese injured in the massive explosions that ripped through Beirut.
The explosions flattened much of the city’s port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. More than 70 people were killed and 3,000 injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said.
Israel offered humanitarian aid to Lebanon in a rare show of support for the enemy country, and three hospitals said they were volunteering their services.
Ziv Medical Center in the northern town of Safed and Rambam Medical Center in Haifa both said they would take in injured.
We are “experienced and prepared,” Ziv said. Both northern hospitals have extensive experience treating patients from hostile countries and were involved in treating Syrians wounded in the civil war. Ziv has treated more than 5,000 Syrian patients since 2013, keeping their identities confidential.
Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv also offered aid.
“We have offered any medical assistance needed to the injured in the Lebanon explosion disaster,” hospital director Yitshak Kreiss told Army Radio. “We are obligated to help anyone who needs assistance, especially our neighbors. We are ready and prepared for any mission we will be given.”
Several of Beirut’s hospitals were damaged in the blast. Roum Hospital put out a call for people to bring it spare generators to keep its electricity going as it evacuated patients because of heavy damage.
Outside the St. George University Hospital in Beirut’s Achrafieh neighborhood, people with various injuries arrived in ambulances, in cars and on foot. The explosion had caused major damage inside the building and knocked out the electricity at the hospital. Dozens of injured were being treated on the spot on the street outside, on stretchers and wheelchairs.
“This is a catastrophe we have on our hands,” said one doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make press statements.
Earlier, Israel offered Lebanon any assistance it needed.
“Israel approached Lebanon through international defense and diplomatic channels to offer the Lebanese government medical humanitarian aid,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said in a joint statement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he instructed his national security adviser, Meir Ben Shabbat, to discuss with UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov how Israel can assist Lebanon.
Mladenov confirmed Israel’s offer to work through the UN in a tweet, saying, “The region and the world must come together to help the people of Lebanon through this time of anguish.”
President Reuven Rivlin, in tweets in English, Arabic and Hebrew, added: “We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time.”
Lebanon was not expected to take the Jewish state up on the offer, despite the already-ailing country’s woes.
An initial explosion appeared to engulf a fireworks storehouse, which then sparked a massive mushroom cloud, sending a shockwave racing across the city. Abbas Ibrahim, chief of Lebanese General Security, said it might have been caused by highly explosive material that was confiscated from a ship some time ago and stored at the port. Local television channel LBC said the material was sodium nitrate.
Though some suspicions around the blast turned to Israel, due in part to its recent clashes with Hezbollah, both sides denied any link.
Israel has fought a number of wars in Lebanon, home of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, which is sworn to the Jewish state’s destruction and is part of the Lebanese government. From 1982 to 2000 Israel occupied a swath of southern Lebanon to push out Palestinian groups, and in 2006 fought a devastating war against Hezbollah in the country.
While Israel in the past has avoided direct confrontation with Lebanon’s US-backed armed forces, it has indicated in recent years that it may not do so in a future conflict.
Tensions have been high on the Israeli-Lebanese border recently, after Israel said it thwarted an infiltration attempt by up to five Hezbollah gunmen — a claim denied by Hezbollah. Israel has been bracing for an attack from Hezbollah after the terror group accused it of killing one of its men in an airstrike in Syria last month.
An Israeli government official said Israel “had nothing to do” with the blast. He spoke on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.