Following the devastating explosion and in response to the protests in Beirut, the Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab proposed early elections. Diab announced in a televised address that he would introduce a corresponding bill. All political parties should resolve their differences and work together. He himself is ready to stay in office for another two months. This should give politicians enough time to implement structural reforms, added Diab. He did not mention a possible date for the new elections.
Four days after the devastating explosion in the port of the Lebanese capital, thousands of Lebanese demonstrated against the government on Saturday. They lasted into the night. People gathered on Saturday for a mourning and protest rally on Martyrs Square in central Beirut. On the fringes of the demonstration, there were clashes with security forces. Some protesters tried to break the barriers to parliament.
Police officer killed in clash in Beirut
Protesters threw stones, as seen in images on Lebanese broadcaster MTV. The security forces, in turn, used massive amounts of tear gas to drive the demonstrators away. As Reuters reports, shots were also fired. At first it was not clear who was shooting whom.
One policeman was killed in the clashes. The state agency NNA reported that he wanted to help people who were stuck in a hotel in central Beirut, citing the security forces. “Rioting murderers” attacked him. According to Bayerischer Rundfunk, the police officer was said to have been chased by a crowd and fell into a shaft, killing him.
More than 200 injured in confrontations
Several people were seen bleeding on television after police used rubber bullets and tear gas against demonstrators. More than 200 people were injured, the Lebanese Red Cross said on Twitter.
According to MTV, some demonstrators managed to break into the Lebanese Foreign Ministry. Pictures from the broadcaster showed how they smash a picture of President Michel Aoun. The activists put up a large poster with the slogan “Beirut is the capital of the revolution”. People also entered the buildings of the Ministry of Economics and Energy.
Protesters accuse politicians of complicity
Many Lebanese blame the political leadership of the small Mediterranean country for the severe explosion. The number of deaths rose to 158, as the Ministry of Health announced. The number of injured climbed to around 6,000.
The motto of the protest rally was “Justice for the victims, revenge on the government”. The demonstrators shouted, among other things, “Revolution, Revolution” and “The people want the overthrow of the regime” https://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/. “The uprising and the revolution will continue,” one of the demonstrators told MTV . President Michael Aoun, Prime Minister Diab and the entire political leadership are responsible for the detonation.
Mass protests against the government had already started last October. The demonstrators are calling for extensive political reforms. They accuse the political elite of corruption and ruthlessly pillaging the country.
The anger is also so great because apparently large amounts of the highly explosive chemical ammonium nitrate have been stored in the port for years without safety precautions. This is said to have caused the huge explosion. Warnings were reportedly ignored.
International aid to Lebanon
An international donor conference for Lebanon is to take place on Sunday via video link. The meeting, convened at short notice, will be chaired by UN Secretary General António Guterres and France’s Head of State Emmanuel Macron, as reported by circles from Macron’s presidential office.
It is about helping the hard hit population directly, without embezzlement. Medical help, food and the rapid reconstruction of schools and hospitals are needed. An amount for international aid was not mentioned – the UN assessment was not yet ready.
US President Donald Trump has already announced that he will be attending, it said in Paris. The Jordanian King Abdullah II, the Egyptian head of state Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have agreed, as has EU Council President Charles Michel. According to government circles, Germany is represented by Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. A preliminary report from Picture on Sunday according to Maas announced ten million euros in emergency aid for Lebanon. “The people of Beirut need our help and they need cause for hope.”
EU Council President Charles Michel met on Saturday for talks with President Aoun and other top politicians, as announced by the Lebanese presidential palace. Lebanon can rely on the solidarity of the EU, tweeted Michel. “Not just in words, but also in concrete actions for the Lebanese people.”
Maas announces 10 million euros in emergency aid
In view of the severe explosion in Beirut, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) has announced a German emergency aid package worth ten million euros for Lebanon. “The people of Beirut need our help and they need cause for hope,” said Maas der Picture on Sunday.
The number of deaths from the explosion rose to 158, the Lebanese Ministry of Health announced on Saturday. The number of injured climbed to around 6,000. According to Maas, 300,000 people have also lost their homes. The numbers stunned him, said Maas.
Leaders of Beirut port arrested
Three days after the devastating explosion in Beirut, those responsible for the port of the Lebanese capital were arrested. These included customs chief Badri Dahir, his predecessor Schafik Mirhi and port director Hassan Kuraitim, the Lebanese state news agency NNA reported on Friday evening.
The decision was made in the course of investigations into the background to the explosion, it said. 16 port employees had already been arrested the previous evening. According to the judiciary, 18 people have been questioned so far.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun told journalists on Friday that the investigation should investigate whether the explosion was caused by negligence. However, it should also be checked whether there might have been “foreign interference” through a missile or bomb. So far, however, there are no signs of this.