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Esper. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at the Aspen Security Forum Wednesday that "most believe" the explosions that rocked Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday were the product of some kind of accident.

Why it matters: President Trump claimed at a press conference Tuesday that he had spoken to generals who "seem to feel that this was not some kind of a manufacturing explosion type of event," and that it was "a bomb of some kind." The remarks set off confusion and prompted anonymous defense officials to tell CNN and AP that there is no indication yet that the blasts were an attack.

The big picture: The Lebanese government has said the blast most likely came from a 2,750-ton stockpile of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical used to make fertilizer. More than 100 people have been killed and thousands have been injured, overwhelming hospitals and leaving much of the city in ruins.

What they're saying: "Still getting information on what happened," Esper said. "Most believe it was an accident, as reported. Beyond that, I have nothing further to report on that. It's obviously a tragedy."

  • "We mourn for the dozens, if not hundreds, of Lebanese possibly killed and thousands hurt. Lebanon's struggling right now in a number of ways and it's a shame to see it happen. When you see the video, it's just devastating."
  • "But we want to help. I spoke to Secretary Pompeo this morning. We're reaching out to the Lebanese government, have reached out. We're positioning ourselves to provide them whatever assistance we can — humanitarian aid, medical supplies, you name it — to assist the people of Lebanon."

Go deeper: What we know about the Beirut explosions

Go deeper

Nov 10, 2020 - World

Exclusive: Bahaa Hariri says Lebanon and Israel should resolve disputes, move toward peace

Bahaa Hariri, the billionaire son of the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, told Axios he thinks Lebanon and Israel should resolve their border disputes and move toward a peace deal.

Why it matters: Israel is an enemy country under Lebanese law, making this a very unusual statement from a member of one of Lebanon’s most prominent political dynasties. Bahaa’s brother Saad is currently trying to form a new government in Lebanon and is known for holding hardline positions on Israel.

Updated Nov 9, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump fires Defense Secretary Mark Esper

Photo: Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Christopher Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will replace Mark Esper as acting secretary of Defense, President Trump tweeted on Monday.

Why it matters: Trump has clashed with Esper over a number of issues since the summer, and he was expected to be one of the first Cabinet secretaries to be removed after the election.

Journalism enters dangerous new era

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Capitol attack on Jan. 6 resulted in at least nine physical assaults against journalists and at least five arrests, per the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker's top editor.

Why it matters: President Trump's harsh rhetoric towards the press has empowered leaders abroad and locally in the U.S. to continue to attack press that they don't like.