Lebanese social media users have responded to a solidarity gesture from Israel with hostility.
In a show of solidarity with the citizens of Beirut, whose city was destroyed yesterday by a bomb blast which killed 137 and wounded thousands, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai decided to light up the city’s municipality building with the colours of the Lebanese flag.
Lebanon is one of 31 UN member states that does not recognise Israel’s existence and the two sworn enemies are still technically at war.
The spectacle drew ire from both Israelis and Lebanese, but Huldai responded on Twitter saying ‘humanity comes before any conflict’ and declared that ‘our hearts are with the Lebanese people’.
Many Lebanese social media users expressed their opinion on the move, with one writing in Arabic, in a tweet that has since been deleted, ‘We do not want you to light up the Lebanese flag’, before switching to Hebrew to say: ‘We will light up Tel Aviv with our missiles’.
‘What? They killed a hundred times more Lebanese than those who died in this explosion,’ another user wrote.
One user, apparently unaware that Israel had offered Lebanon humanitarian aid hours after the disaster, wrote: ‘Are buildings illuminated with the Lebanese flag?
‘Are humanitarian aid being offered to Lebanon [sic]?
‘Speaking of humanity, let’s not forget the Israeli aggression in ’78, the invasion in ’82, the The Sabra and Shatila massacre, the Kfar Kanna massacre and finally the July 2006 war, when the Zionists wrote about missiles ‘from the children of Israel to the children of Lebanon’.’
‘We do not want your help from filthy b******s.’ Another tweet read: ‘What the hell? They killed a hundred times more Lebanese than those who died in this explosion.’
Meanwhile, in Israel, the display was met with similar condemnation.
Jerusalem Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz said Huldai’s spectacle was like ‘raising [an] enemy state’s flag in the heart of Tel Aviv’, Haredi daily Hamodia reported.
This lighting up of the municipality building came hours after Israel offered another olive branch to its bitter rival.
‘Israel has approached Lebanon through international security and diplomatic channels and has offered the Lebanese government medical and humanitarian assistance,’ a written statement from Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said.
In the two weeks before the bomb blast, tensions between the two sworn enemies had risen, with Israeli Defence Forces deployed to the country’s northern border following a series of missile strikes.
Earlier this month, Israel accused Hezbollah of trying to send gunmen across the UN-demarcated Blue Line and said it held the Lebanese government responsible for what it termed an attempted ‘terrorist’ attack.
There have been numerous similar border spats in recent years but the most recent full-scale conflict broke out between the two sides in 2006 after Hezbollah killed eight Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two, sparking the 34-day Israel-Lebanon war.
Hezbollah launched rockets at its southern neighbour and Israel returned fire, bombing Lebanese towns, villages and key infrastructure targets.
The conflict ended inconclusively and the two sides are still, technically, at war. .