BEIRUT, Aug 09 : Police fired tear gas at demonstrators trying to break through a barrier to march toward the parliament building in Beirut and shots were also witness as protests over some days back devastating explosion grew.
Dozens of protesters broke into the foreign ministry where they burnt a framed portrait of President Michel Aoun, representative of a political class that has ruled Lebanon for decades and which they say is to blame for its deep political and economic crises.
Thousands protestors gathered in Martyrs’ Square in the city centre and instigate the Lebanese people to occupy all the ministries. Police fired tear gas when some protesters tried to break through the barrier blocking a street leading to parliament and thrown stone on law enforcing agencies. Soldiers in vehicles mounted with machine guns patrolled the area amid the clashes.
Tuesday’s blast, the biggest in Beirut’s history, killed 158 people and wounded 6,000, the health ministry said. Twenty-one people were still reported as missing.
The government has promised to hold those responsible to account. But few Lebanese are convinced. Some set up nooses on wooden frames as a warning to Lebanese leaders. “Resign or hang,” said a placard.
Some residents, struggling to clean up shattered homes, complained that the government they see as corrupt — there had been months of protests against its handling of a deep economic crisis before this week’s disaster — had let them down again.
Lebanon’s Kataeb Party, a Christian group that opposes the government backed by the Hezbollah, announced resignation of its three lawmakers from parliament.
“I invite all honourable parliamentarians to resign so that the people can decide who will govern them, without anybody imposing anything to them,” said party chief Samy Gemayel.
Macron promised angry crowds that aid to rebuild Beirut would not fall into “corrupt hands”. He will host a donor conference for Lebanon via video-link on Sunday.
Macron told US President Donald Trump that US sanctions targeting Hezbollah are playing into the hands of those they are meant to weaken, an Elysee official said. The United States should “reinvest” in Lebanon to help rebuild it instead.
The Lebanese prime minister and presidency have said 2,750 tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, which is used in making fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years without safety measures at the port warehouse.
President Aoun said on Friday an investigation would examine whether the blast was caused by a bomb or other external interference, negligence or an accident. Twenty people had been detained so far, he added.“We can’t afford to rebuild and no one is helping us,” he said.
Officials have said the blast could have caused losses amounting to $15 billion. That is a bill that Lebanon cannot pay after already defaulting on a mountain of debt exceeding 150 per cent of economic output and with talks stalled on a lifeline from the International Monetary Fund.