International C-17s Fly Aid to Beirut Following Explosion

Three U.S. Air Force C-17s, plus another from the multinational Strategic Airlift Capability group, on Aug. 6 began carrying aid to Lebanon after a massive explosion in Beirut’s port killed at least 135 people and injured thousands more.

The three Globemaster IIIs from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, began flying food, water, and medical supplies to Lebanon in response to the Aug. 4 explosion.

U.S. Central Command boss Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. has expressed his condolences to Lebanon Armed Forces Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun and shared his “willingness to continue to work with the Lebanese Armed Forces to help provide aid and assistance to meet the needs of the Lebanese people during this terrible tragedy,” according to an Aug. 6 CENTCOM statement.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman told reporters during an Aug. 6 briefing that CENTCOM is working with the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to ensure that the aid gets to the Lebanese people who need it, and that the Lebanese militant organization Hezbollah will not benefit.

The department is “optimistic and hopeful that this is an opportunity for all those who want to see a better outcome for the Lebanese people” after the disaster, Hoffman said.

A C-17 from the Strategic Airlift Capability—a multinational group including the U.S. that flies the transport jet out of Hungary—brought a search-and-rescue team and 14 tons of equipment to Beirut within 24 hours of the initial request, the program said on Twitter.

Lebanon’s investigation into the disaster points to about 2,750 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate that was long stored at a warehouse in the port, according to the Associated Press.

President Donald J. Trump told reporters shortly after the incident that unnamed generals believed an attack or a bomb were behind the blast. Hoffman, responding to multiple questions on the issue, said “different information” came to light in the days after the explosion, and the U.S. has not settled on a definitive explanation for the incident.