Beirut digs for survivors as blast death toll rises: live updates

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Hours after the explosion, Israel offered to provide humanitarian aid to its old enemy, Lebanon. He was not sure that the help would be welcome.

The approach was made through foreign mediators, as Israel and Lebanon have no diplomatic relations. It came just over a week after Israel said it repelled an infiltration attempt by a Hezbollah squad along its northern border, in part by firing artillery shells at southern Lebanon.

Israel invaded Lebanon in 2006, attempting to uproot Hezbollah, the militia and the Shiite political party. They fought a devastating month-long war, and smaller-scale violence has erupted several times since. Hezbollah is now part of the Lebanese government coalition.

No Lebanese politician would want to be seen as an ally or accountable to Israel, which remains deeply unpopular across Lebanon’s political spectrum.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, both former army chiefs of staff, offered medical assistance through “international defense and diplomatic channels.” Gantz said on Twitter on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had appointed a senior adviser to meet with a United Nations envoy on how to provide aid. In Parliament on Wednesday he said: “We are ready to offer humanitarian aid, as human beings to human beings.” He sent the same message in Arabic on Twitter.

An Israeli Defense Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to diplomatic sensitivity, said there was no response from Lebanon on Wednesday evening. But another government official said contacts were underway between Israel and Nikolay Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process. Mr Mladenov’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Asked later about possible Israeli aid to Lebanon, a United Nations spokesperson Farhan Haq said: “Obviously, we appreciate all offers of assistance from member states.”

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