Italy expressed its support to Lebanon, after the explosion occurred on August 4 that destroyed the port of Beirut, sending a humanitarian flight with medical supplies, in addition to a team of 14 firefighters.
Particularly, the flight has been organized by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International cooperation, and it has been promoted by the Deputy Minister Emanuela Del Re, together with the Civil Protection Department and the Joint Operations Headquarters. It took off from Brindisi on August 6 and landed on the same day in the Lebanese capital city. It shipped 8.5 tons of health supplies, mainly surgical and trauma kits, addressed to the Lebanese Armed Forces, and to the benefit of the Lebanese public hospitals. This flight followed a first one, arrived at dawn on the same day, carrying a team of 22 experts in the fields of CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) and of the structural stability of buildings.
These flights showed how Italy answered to the call for assistance launched by the Lebanese authorities in the aftermath of the tragic explosions that caused heavy damage to the town and left over a hundred deceased and thousands wounded. As stated by the Deputy Minister Del Re, Rome’s goal is trying to alleviate the suffering of a population already struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic and a deep financial crisis.
In addition to that, the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation is likely to allocate emergency contributions of 700.000 euros to the Lebanese Red Cross, 1,5 million euros to the International Committee of the Red Cross, 1 million euros to OCHA and 2 million euros for projects implemented by Italian NGOs. Moreover, on August 5, a team of 14 Italian firefighters reached Beirut to provide technical support. Specifically, the personnel’s aim is evaluating the chemical risk related to the blast, provoked by ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse, and assessing the security of the damaged buildings.
In the aftermath of the incident, the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, had a telephone conversation with his Lebanese counterpart, Hassan Diab, in which he expressed deep solidarity and ensured Italy’s full support to Lebanon and its people. Moreover, on August 6, the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luigi Di Maio called his Lebanese homologue, Charbel Wehbe, to express his utmost condolences for the tragic losses, and confirmed the immediate mobilization of the resources of the Italian Cooperation to help alleviate the sufferings.
“Italy will continue to support Lebanon, also through its engagement in UNIFIL” Di Maio said, referring to the United Nations Interim Force to Lebanon, where the Italian contingent is the second largest of the Mission. On his turn, minister Wehbe thanked Italy for the solidarity shown and for its role within the framework of UNIFIL also in this emergency, hoping that the bilateral cooperation could be further strengthened.
In this regard, among the people wounded there was also an Italian soldier, member of the UNIFIL contingent, whose conditions are not serious and other 10 Italians, while a 92-year-old Italian woman was killed. Furthermore, according to the Italian Minister of Defense, Lorenzo Guerini, the building where some of the Italian soldiers stationed was damaged by the shock wave of the explosion, although it was not located in the immediate vicinity of the port. Therefore, the personnel was transferred from Beirut to the Shama base.
Italian soldiers have been helping the UNIFIL mission for over 40 years, and their main goal is ensuring stability in a crucial region of the Middle East. As declared by Minister Guerini when he visited Lebanon on November 14, 2019, in the framework of his first official visit in the country, the Italian military personnel represent “a generous example of what Italy does to build peace and security”. Then, he also added that “Lebanon is a theatre of strategic relevance for security in the Mediterranean and Europe” and its stability must be pursued with determination, since the country is placed in the middle of a regional context crossed by tension.
This article was first published on August 7, 2020