Beirut explosion: Protesters tear-gassed after trying to storm Lebanon's parliament as anger grows over port blast

Calls for ‘revolution’ as anger grows following disaster compounds country's economic woes

Vincent Wood
Friday 07 August 2020 14:56
Beirut residents protest against country's leaders

Police in Beirut have tear-gassed protesters attempting to storm the nation’s parliament as fury grows over the explosion that left 145 people dead and thousands injured.

Tuesday’s port blast left more than 250,000 people without habitable homes after huge quantities of highly explosive ammonium nitrate ignited, sending out a seismic shock felt across the region.

Security forces confronted protesters outside parliament on Thursday night after small group of demonstrators burned objects and hurled rocks at police.

Video footage from the scene showed a blockade set up to keep people away from the building, which sits just over a kilometre away from the epicentre of the blast.

Calls for change had already rung out in the city’s streets earlier in the day after French president Emmanuel Macron surveyed the city where the deadly blast left roads strewn with glass and 5,000 people injured

The latest demonstrations come after months of protest in the country before the blast over issues including economic crisis, sectarian rule and surging unemployment.

Mr Macron called for an international inquiry into the blast, stating it served as an urgent signal to carry out anti-corruption reforms demanded by a furious population.

"If reforms are not carried out, Lebanon will continue to sink," Macron said. "What is also needed here is political change. This explosion should be the start of a new era."

The government responded to the explosion with a call for justice to be served, with president Michel Aoun saying shortly after the blast: “I will not rest until we find the person responsible for what happened so we can hold them to account and impose the most severe punishment”.

However despite state media announcing the arrest of 16 people, anger continued to spill over.

None of Lebanon's top politicians have yet toured residential areas damaged by the blast. Justice minister Marie-Claude Najm, who tried to visit, was driven out by protesters who hurled water at her.

"Resign, you criminal! Would you accept anything less if your sister were among those killed?" one protester shouted at her. As she was about to respond, another sprayed her with a water hose. She left as protesters chanted "revolution" and "resign".

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