Hezbollah had been slowly siphoning off the ammonium nitrate that was stored in the port and ignited in a deadly blast in Beirut to manufacture missiles and rockets, according to a security source and a source close to the organization.
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A warehouse containing 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded in Beirut on Tuesday, killing at least 171 people, injuring thousands, and destroying much of the city.
In the wake of the disaster, observers have questioned why such vast quantities of highly explosive material was left in Beirut’s port, so close to the densely populated city center.
According a former high security source who spoke to Al Arabiya English on condition of anonymity, the ammonium nitrate remained at the port for years because “it was being siphoned off for military purposes by a third party.”
This statement was also later confirmed by a source close to Hezbollah commanders who specified that the product was being used for missiles and rockets war heads, which were sent by Iran to Lebanon and assembled locally in the Hermel Region by Hezbollah. Back in 2017, the French Intelligence Online magazine had already reported that Hezbollah was constructing two underground facilities in Lebanon for manufacturing missiles.
“Lebanese security services also received American warnings from US envoy David Satterfield about the existence of two missile assembly plants, in South Lebanon and the Bekaa,” added the high security source, who explained that weapon shipments were transferred on regular basis into Lebanon via the port as well as over the country's land borders.
Israel has systematically targeted Tehran’s shipments to Hezbollah transferred into Lebanon via Syria, striking the Lebanese party hundreds of times across the border.
According to the security source, a variety of organizations had control of the port: Customs, the General Security, the army’s intelligence services and more recently the State security. The US Treasury has nonetheless accused Hezbollah of controlling many of Beirut’s port facilities.
“Certain sections of the Port and the airport are used for smuggling military shipments to Hezbollah,” a source close to Hezbollah fighters told Al Arabiya English on condition of anonymity. The former security source pointed out that terminal 5 was a transit point for the party in the Beirut port. The port remains also a lucrative business for all of Lebanon’s corrupt elite.