| 4 December 2023, Monday |

Lebanon requests satellite images for site of Beirut blast

BEIRUT: The judge investigating last year’s massive blast that rocked the port of Beirut requested on Tuesday that countries with satellites stationed over Lebanon provide authorities with images that could help their probe, the National News Agency reported.

NNA did not name the countries that Judge Tarek Bitar asked for images of the Beirut port before, during and after the explosion.

On August 4th, 2020, a large explosion, caused by improperly stored ammonium nitrate, occurred at the Port of Beirut, killing at least 200 people, injuring more than 6,000 and rendering 300,000 others homeless. Large sections of the port and its infrastructure were destroyed, including most of Beirut’s grain reserves, and billions of dollars in damages were inflicted across the city.

Days after the blast, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said he had asked France, which has close ties to its former colony, for satellite images from the time to see if they showed any missiles or aircraft. In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, authorities did not rule out an attack, though no evidence emerged to suggest it.

Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who resigned after the catastrophe, had also said that he asked French President Emmanuel Macron for satellite images of the port before and after the explosion.

Youssef Diab, a Lebanese journalist who closely follows up on the probe, said the request by Judge Bitar is a formal legal memorandum for which a response is mandatory, and it indicates that he has not ruled out the possibility of an attack on the port.

Youssef Diab said the countries include France, the United State, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, China, Japan and Canada.

“The idea is to figure out from the images if there were flights over the port or if the port was targeted,” he said. The judge “has expanded the realm of possibilities” of what might have caused the blast.