James Rothwell in Jerusalem writes:
Within minutes of the explosion, spurious rumours began to circulate online that Israel had played some role in the blast at the port of Beirut, which occurred at around 6pm local time.
Some Arabic news channels falsely reported that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, had claimed responsibility for the attack.
In fact, Mr Netanyahyu had issued a statement about an unrelated Israeli airstrike in Syria, which was in retaliation for an attempted terror attack at Israel’s northeastern border with Syria earlier this week. This was then misattributed to the incident in Beirut, according to Elizabeth Tsurkov, a leading Syria analyst.
Israeli officials have stressed that they had “nothing to do with the explosion.”
Tensions between Israel and Hizbollah, a Lebanese militant group backed by Iran, have soared in recent weeks at the border between Israel and Lebanon, as well as at the Israel-Syria border.
Hizbollah has vowed revenge for an airstrike attributed to Israel which it says killed one of their fighters. Israel says it recently thwarted an attempted attack by Hizbollah at the Lebanese border, firing on a group of armed men as they crossed into Israeli territory.
Even Hizbollah has denied Israel played any role in the Beirut explosion, according to Lebanese media, which quoted a Hizbollah source who distanced the group from the rumour.