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AFP
August 9, 2020

Protesters seize Lebanon foreign ministry after blast

World

AFP
August 9, 2020

Beirut police fire teargas at protesters demanding justice over explosion BEIRUT: Lebanese protesters stormed the foreign ministry in Beirut on Saturday as anger exploded over a deadly blast that made hundreds of thousands homeless and shocked the world.

Thousands of demonstrators, some of them brandishing nooses, had descended on the city centre to vent their fury at politicians they blame for Tuesday´s explosion, which levelled Beirut port and killed 158 people.

Amid the outpouring of rage, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said he would seek early elections, saying it was the only way to "exit the country´s structural crisis".

Demonstrators marched through streets ravaged by the blast, gathering in the central Martyrs´ Square, where a truck was on fire, as their grief gave way to anger.Police fired teargas and rubber bullets at thousands of people who had turned out to demand accountability for one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions the world has seen. They also shot live ammunition in the air, in an attempt to disperse the furious crowds.Driven by anger at the corruption and incompetence that appears to have fostered Tuesday’s tragedy, people gathered from early afternoon in the city’s central Martyrs Square, where activists have erected a mock gallows for Lebanon’s top politicians.

The protesters chanted: “The people want the fall of the regime,” and held posters saying: “Leave, you are all killers.” More than 150 people died in the blast, about 6,000 were injured and at least 60 are still missing, according to the health ministry.

"We are taking over the foreign ministry as a seat of the revolution," Sami Rammah, a retired officer, announced by loudspeaker from the ministry´s front steps.

"We call on all the anguished Lebanese people to take to the streets to demand the prosecution of all the corrupt," appealing to the international community to boycott the government.

The Lebanese Red Cross said it had taken 55 people from the protest to nearby hospitals and treated another 117 at the scene, without specifying who they were.

Two days after a landmark visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, activity was growing to drum up international support for the disaster-hit country ahead of a Sunday virtual aid conference.

For the fourth day running, Beirut woke to the sound of broken glass being swept on the streets, its inhabitants taking stock after one of the biggest blasts of its kind in recent history.

A fire at the port on Tuesday ignited a stock of ammonium nitrate, triggering an explosion that was felt as far away as Cyprus and destroyed entire neighbourhoods.

It was widely perceived as a direct consequence of corruption and incompetence, perhaps the most egregious case of callousness on the part of a ruling elite that was already reviled.

"You were corrupt, now you are criminals," read one banner at the demonstration, while protesters chanted: "Revenge, until this regime reaches an end."