Beirut police fire tear gas as protesters regroup and raid ministerial buildings

Lebanese protesters, enraged by a deadly explosion blamed on government negligence, clash with security forces near an access street to the parliament in central Beirut Sunday, (AFP)
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Updated 10 August 2020

Beirut police fire tear gas as protesters regroup and raid ministerial buildings

  • Fire broke out at an entrance to Parliament Square as demonstrators tried to break into a cordoned-off area
  • Protesters also broke into the housing and transport ministry offices

BEIRUT: Lebanese police fired tear gas to try to disperse rock-throwing protesters blocking a road near parliament in Beirut on Sunday in a second day of anti-government demonstrations triggered by last week's devastating explosion.
Fire broke out at an entrance to Parliament Square as demonstrators tried to break into a cordoned-off area, TV footage showed. Protesters also broke into the housing and transport ministry offices.
Two government ministers resigned amid the political fallout of the blast and months of economic crisis, saying the government had failed to reform.


Tuesday's explosion of more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate killed 158 people and injured more than 6,000, compounding months of political and economic collapse and prompting furious calls for the government to quit.
Riot police wearing body armour and carrying batons clashed with demonstrators as thousands converged on Parliament Square and nearby Martyrs' Square, a Reuters correspondent said.
"We gave these leaders so many chances to help us and they always failed. We want them all out, especially Hezbollah, because it's a militia and just intimidates people with its weapons," Walid Jamal, an unemployed demonstrator, said, referring to the country's most influential Iran-backed armed grouping that has ministers in the government.

The country's top Christian Maronite cleric, Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai, said the cabinet should resign as it cannot "change the way it governs".
"The resignation of an MP or a minister is not enough ... the whole government should resign as it is unable to help the country recover," he said in his Sunday sermon.
Lebanon's environment minister resigned on Sunday, saying the government had lost a number of opportunities to reform, a statement said.
Damianos Kattar's departure follows the resignation of Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad earlier on Sunday in the wake of the explosion.

Anger boiled over into violent scenes in central Beirut on Saturday. Those protests were the biggest since October when thousands of people took to the streets to demand an end to corruption, bad governance and mismanagement.
About 10,000 people gathered at Martyrs' Square, which was transformed into a battle zone in the evening between police and protesters who tried to break down a barrier along a road leading to parliament. Some demonstrators stormed government ministries and the Association of Lebanese Banks.




 Demonstrators clshing with police in central Beirut Sunday. (Reuters)

One policeman was killed and the Red Cross said more than 170 people were injured in clashes.
"The police fired at me. But that won't stop us from demonstrating until we change the government from top to bottom," Younis Flayti, 55, a retired army officer, said on Sunday.
Nearby, mechanic Sabir Jamali sat beside a noose attached to a wooden frame in Martyrs' Square, intended as a symbolic warning to Lebanese leaders to resign or face hanging.
"Every leader who oppresses us should be hanged," he said, adding he will protest again.
Lawyer Maya Habli surveyed the demolished port.
"People should sleep in the streets and demonstrate against the government until it falls," she said.
The 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.
The government has said it will hold those responsible to account.
An emergency donor conference in France raised pledges worth nearly 253 million euros ($298 million) for immediate humanitarian relief, the French presidency said.
For many, the blast was a dreadful reminder of the 1975-1990 civil war that tore the nation apart and destroyed swathes of Beirut, much of which has since been rebuilt.
"I worked in Kuwait for 15 years in sanitation to save money and build a gift shop in Lebanon and it was destroyed by the explosion," said Maroun Shehadi.
"Nothing will change until our leaders just leave."


Lebanon finds four bodies after deadly sea crossing

Updated 21 September 2020

Lebanon finds four bodies after deadly sea crossing

  • UN peacekeepers retrieved one body and rescued 36 people from a boat in trouble in international waters off the Lebanese coast
  • Families of the survivors said the boat had been adrift without food or water for around a week
BEIRUT: Lebanon has retrieved the bodies of four people including a child after they tried to flee the crisis-hit country by sea on an overloaded dinghy, the civil defense said Monday.
A week ago, UN peacekeepers retrieved one body and rescued 36 people from a boat in trouble in international waters off the Lebanese coast.
Families of the survivors said the boat had been adrift without food or water for around a week, during which time several passengers had died or jumped overboard to find help.
The bodies are presumed to be from the same ill-fated crossing.
Since Friday, “we have retrieved four bodies — belonging to two Lebanese, one of whom was a child, a young Indian man and a Syrian man,” Samir Yazbek, the head of the civil defense’s sea rescue unit, told AFP.
The bodies were found in four separate locations off the north and south coasts of the country, and the search was ongoing, he added.
The UN refugee agency said last week that 25 Syrians, eight Lebanese and three people of other nationalities had been rescued from the boat.
It is unclear how many men, women and children originally clambered aboard the dinghy, and therefore how many are still missing.
On Saturday, the navy said it would step up its searches within and outside Lebanon’s territorial waters to find any other victims.
Relatives of those who went missing from the impoverished north Lebanese city of Tripoli say the people smuggler involved in the crossing has dropped off the radar since the tragedy.
They have filed three legal complaints against the man, who they say is a well-known figure in the community.
A military source on Saturday said a person acting as an intermediary between passengers and the boat owner had been arrested.
In recent weeks, dozens of Lebanese and Syrians have tried to make the perilous sea journey from Lebanon to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, authorities on both sides say.
The Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member, lies just 160 kilometers (100 miles) away.
Lebanon is in the throes of its worst economic crisis in decades, compounded since February by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
It is also reeling from a monster blast at Beirut’s port last month that killed more than 190 people, ravaged large parts of the capital and reignited public anger against the political class.