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US pledges $17 million in disaster aid to Lebanon

US pledges $17 million in disaster aid to Lebanon

The U.S. announced Friday it is sending $17 million in relief aid to Lebanon after a massive explosion rocked its capital city of Beirut earlier this week, killing at least 150 people and wounding thousands more.

National security adviser Robert O'BrienRobert O'BrienWhite House aides head for exits after chaos at Capitol Top Melania Trump aide Stephanie Grisham resigns Trump national security adviser defends Pence MORE said in a statement that the first wave of aid would include "food, water, and critical medical supplies." He added that the U.S. Agency for International Development was deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team to "assist in the coordination and delivery of humanitarian assistance."

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoBiden should expand contact between US and Taiwanese officials On The Money: Retail sales drop in latest sign of weakening economy | Fast-food workers strike for minimum wage | US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits MORE noted in his own statement that the $17 million in disaster aid "augments the $403 million in U.S. humanitarian assistance to Lebanon since September 2019, including $41.6 million in assistance for the [COVID-19] response."

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Details surrounding the explosion are still somewhat murky. President TrumpDonald TrumpFacebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Sasse, in fiery op-ed, says QAnon is destroying GOP Section 230 worked after the insurrection, but not before: How to regulate social media MORE raised eyebrows on Tuesday when he called the explosion an "attack," citing his military advisers, despite Lebanese officials not saying the same. The president tempered his description of the explosion the following day.

"Whatever happened, it's terrible," Trump said Wednesday during a press briefing. "But they don’t really know what it is. Nobody knows yet. At this moment they're looking — I mean, how can you say accident?"

"I don’t think anybody can say right now. We’re looking into it very strongly," he added. "I mean, you have some people think it was an attack and you have some people that think it wasn't."

"In any event, it was a terrible event, and a lot of people were killed, and a tremendous number of people were badly wounded, injured," he added.

Officials have said a large stock of ammonium nitrate was stored in a warehouse where the explosions occurred.

The Lebanese government has launched its own investigation into the blasts, with officials signaling the materials had been housed at the warehouse since 2014.