Police fired tear gas on Beirut protesters after the explosion


BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon riot police on Saturday fired tear gas at protesters trying to break through a barrier to reach the parliament building in Beirut, amid government opposition to deal with this week’s devastating explosion in the city .

About 7,000 people gathered at the Martyr Square in the city center, some throwing stones. A Reuters journalist said the police released tear gas when some protesters tried to break the blocker on the road leading to Parliament.

The ambulance reached the spot. A teenager fainted after being overcome by tear gas.

The protesters said that “people want the fall of the regime”, a popular chant during the 2011 Arab Spring rebellion. “Revolution.” Revolution. “He said that” you are all murderers. ”

Soldiers patrolled in vehicles parked with machine guns amid skirmishes.

“Is the army really here?” Are you here to shoot us? Join us and we can fight the government together, ”one woman shouted.

The explosion on Tuesday, the largest in Beirut’s history, killed 158 people and injured 6,000, the Health Ministry said. Twenty-one people are still reported missing due to the explosion, which destroyed a large area of ​​the city.

The government has promised to hold those responsible. But some Lebanese are convinced. Some set noses on wooden planks as a warning to Lebanese leaders.

“Resign or hang on,” said a plank.

The rioters fired dozens of tear gas shells at the protesters who opened fire and threw stones.

Some residents, struggling to clean up the dilapidated homes, complain to the government that they are corrupt – there were months of protests against tackling a deep economic crisis before this week’s disaster – giving them Disappointed again.

University student Celine Dibo said, “We have no faith in our government. “I want the United Nations to occupy Lebanon.”

Many said they are not surprised that French President Emmanuel Macron visited this week, while Lebanese leaders did not.

“We are staying at Ground Zero. I hope another country of 48 years will take us, ”said psychologist 48-year-old Marys Hayek, whose parents’ home was destroyed in the explosion.

The Katab Party of Lebanon, a Christian group that opposes the government backed by Iran-backed Hezbollah, announced the resignation of three of its MPs from parliament on Saturday.

Party chief Sami Gayal said that while announcing the move during the funeral of a prominent member of the group, I invite all honorable (lawmen) to resign so that the public can decide who will rule them. , Who will not apply anything to them. In the explosion.

Macron, who visited Beirut on Thursday, promised the angry crowd that those who assisted in rebuilding the city would not fall into “corrupt hands”. He will host a donor conference for Lebanon via video-link on Sunday, his office said. US President Donald Trump said he would join it.

The Prime Minister and the Presidency have stated that 2,750 tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, which is used in manure and bomb making, was stored in the port warehouse for six years without security measures.

President Michelle Aun said on Friday that an investigation would investigate whether it was caused by a bomb or other external interference. AON said the investigation would also weigh in if an explosion occurred due to negligence or accident. He said that twenty people have been detained so far.

Protesters gather as tear gas to disperse, fired on 8 August 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday morning during protests near the parliament by security forces. REUTERS / Thaier Al-Sudani

‘We can reject the report’

Some residents wondered how they would rebuild their lives.

Tearing, Bilal Hasan tried to remove debris from his house using his bare hands. He is sleeping on a dusty couch besides pieces of washed glass.

When his three injured teenage children ran for their lives, they left blood stains on the staircase and walls.

“There is really nothing we can do. We can’t rebuild and no one is helping us, ”he said, standing near a large teddy bear that blew into his house, and a damaged photo of him and his wife.

Bulldozers pledged through the long rows of rubble and flat cars of common houses parked by soldiers. Volunteers with shovels flow through the streets.

Danielle Camley said her charity organization, which had its headquarters destroyed, provided assistance to 70 families who had become homeless.

“We have given initial help to the people but we do not know what we can do for the families in future. It requires big projects, ”she said.

Officials have said the explosion could cause $ 15 billion in damage. It is a bill that Lebanon cannot repay after already defaulting on a mountain of debt – more than 150% of economic output – and with talks stalled on the lifeline from the International Monetary Fund.

‘Mini ati bomb’

France and other countries have given emergency aid to Lebanon, including doctors, and health equipment and food. The explosion destroyed Lebanon’s only major grain silo and UN agencies are helping provide food and medical aid.

For ordinary Lebanese, the scale of destruction is enormous.

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“It felt like a nuclear nuclear bomb,” said George Rohana, sitting near a supermarket that was demolished.

Marita was handing out bread and cheese to the victims of the Abu Jouda blast.

“Macron offered to help and our government has done nothing. It has always been like this, ”he said. “I played the French national anthem all day in my car after Macron left.”

Additional reporting by Maihar Chamatelli, Laila Bassam, Aggie Erkoyun and Richard Lof; Editing by Frances Carey and Nick McPhee

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