BEIRUT, Lebanon - The Lebanese cabinet has ordered port officials who had roles in storing or guarding highly explosive materials in the Beirut port area since 2014 to be put under house arrest, according to a Reuters report quoting ministerial sources.
The cabinet has also announced a two-week state of emergency in Beirut, following Tuesday's deadly explosion which has killed at least 158 people, injured more than 5,000, and left 350,000 people homeless.
Scores of people are still unaccounted for as the search through rubble continues. The death toll is likely to rise significantly.
Beirut hospitals have been overwhelmed in dealing with the injured. Israel has offered the use of its hospitals however the offer has not been taken up. The Lebanese Red Cross has commissioned 35 teams and seventy-five ambulances from other parts of Lebanon to deploy to Beirut.
The bruised and battered city of Beirut is still in a state of shock as the effects of the seismic blast continues to take hold. The sheer ferocity of it which generated a mushroom cloud is still being felt.
The mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldaiin, in a rare signal of solidarity lit up city landmarks in Lebanon's colors on Wednesday night and flew the Lebanon flag. "Tonight, we will be lighting up the Municipality with the Lebanese flag. Humanity comes before any conflict, and our hearts are with the people of Lebanon following the terrible disaster that has fallen upon them," he posted on Twitter.
Yair Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's son immediately tweeted: "This is absolutely crazy. Lebanon is officially considered an enemy state. According to the law, raising an enemy flag is a criminal act!."
Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Rafi Peretz concurred, saying: "We can and should provide humanitarian assistance to citizens injured in Lebanon, but waving the flag of an enemy state in the heart of Tel Aviv is moral confusion. Lebanon has allowed Hezbollah to get stronger and even allows Iran's terror activity on its land."
Zehut Party Chairman and former Member of the Israeli Knesset Moshe Feiglin said the Beirut explosion was something to celebrate, calling the blast "a spectacular pyrotechnics show."
"In honor of Tu B'Av (the Jewish holiday of love which took place Tuesday and Wednesday), we got a "spectacular pyrotechnics show" in the port of Beirut," he posted on Facebook. "You don't really believe this was just a messy fuel depot, right? You do realize that this inferno was supposed to land on us as a rain of rockets?"
"I have a bit of experience with explosives. The largest explosion I took part in was 2.5 tonnes of TNT. What we saw yesterday in the port of Beirut was much bigger. Its destructive effect (minus the radiation) was equivalent to a mini-nuclear bomb," he said.
"Pay close attention to the videos taken from sea, to the huge vacuum at the center of the blast that sucked seawater into itself and created a mushroom cloud resembling a nuclear blast. Granted, the horrible effect of radiation isn't there, but this was dispersed over precise explosive heads of around 200,000 missiles that could reach any strategic point in Israel," Feiglin's post said.
Tuesday's massive blast came three days ahead of the scheduled handing down of the verdict by the International Special Tribunal investigating the Rafic Hariri assassination which resulted from a truck bombing which also devastated Beirut and caused the death of 21 people in addition to Hariri. The handing down of the decision has now been postponed to 18 August due to Tuesday's explosion.
"The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic events that shook Lebanon yesterday. The Tribunal expresses its solidarity with the Lebanese people in these difficult times," a statement from the tribunal issued on Wednesday said.
"This was out of respect for the countless victims of the devastating explosion that shook Beirut on Aug. 4, and the three-day of public mourning in Lebanon."
Four suspects have been tried by the tribunal. It is unclear from court filings whether the four are Hezbollah operatives, members or supporters, but the four men have invariably been linked to the Lebanese militant group. The big question is whether Hezbollah itself will be implicated as has been championed since investigators reversed course and focused on the group, after spending its initial years pursuing the Syrian government.