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Protest in Beirut
Image: Reuters/H. McKay
PoliticsMiddle East

Lebanon: Beirut protesters and police clash for second day

August 9, 2020

Lebanese protesters hurled rocks at the police in renewed clashes over the deadly Beirut explosion, which many blame on government's negligence. Footage from the scene showed fire near the country's parliament.


Protesters clashed with riot police in Beirut and tried to break into a cordoned-off area at the parliament square on Sunday amid widespread anger over the massive explosion that killed at least 158 people earlier this week.

A fire broke out at the entrance to the square near the parliament building, according to footage shown by Lebanese television. Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

A 19-year-old protester said he wanted to "destroy" the government.

"They gave us no jobs or rights," he told the Reuters news agency.

Hundreds of protesters, many with covered by masks in the colors of the Lebanese flag, threw stones at iron fences and cement barriers blocking entrances to the complex. Groups of protesters breached offices belonging to the housing and transport ministry.

Read more: Opinion: Lebanon's worst enemy is its own government

Protesters and critics of the government have blamed corruption and poor leadership at the heart of Lebanon's government for the explosion. The blast killed more than 150 people, leaving 6,000 injured and some 300,000 homeless.

Lebanon's government has faced difficulties for some time and was already confronting an economic crisis before the explosion took place. Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti resigned on Monday, one day before the blast, blaming the government's poor effort to pull the country out of its economic woes.

Protesters demand government accountability

Samad's resignation comes after thousands of protesters took to the streets of Beirut on Saturday night.

Protesters occupied government buildings to voice discontent with government accountability and the handling of the crisis, calling for fresh elections, arrests and resignations — and even a revolution.

Lebanon's Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad resigned from her post on Sunday, marking the first resignation by a government minister since the massive explosion shook Beirut and prompted mass protests. 

Read more: Beirut blast: Donors push for reforms in return for pledged money
Samad cited the failure of the government to carry out reforms and the catastrophic blast that hit Beirut on Tuesday, according to Lebanon's Al Jadeed TV. Earlier in the week, the Ministry of Information had denied rumors of her impending resignation.

She also apologized to the Lebanese public for "failing" them.

"We did not live up to your expectations," she said.

Lebanon's former Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad
Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad has resignedImage: Getty Images/AFP

Lebanon's environment minister has also stepped down. "In light of the enormous catastrophe... I have decided to hand in my resignation from government," Damianos Kattar announced in a statement, saying he had lost hope in a "sterile regime that botched several opportunities."

"Those who died paid the price of a state that doesn't care about anything except power and money," said protester Tamara, 23, whose friend Rawan, 20, was killed in the blast.

"It's not enough that ministers resign," said another of her friends, Michel. "Those who put the explosives there must be held accountable. We want an international tribunal to tell us who killed (Rawan)."

Patriarch wants government to resign

In the country where power is divided between Maronite Christians, Shiite and Sunni Muslims, Lebanon's top Maronite cleric said the entire government should step down.

The cabinet cannot "change the way it governs," Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai said in his Sunday sermon.

"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.

With damages estimated to be up to $15 billion (€12.7 billion), French President Emmanuel Macron hosted an international aid conference on Sunday to raise money to rebuild the devastated city.

Macron is among the foreign leaders who have called for an urgent need for reform among the Lebanese political classes.

Bassel Aridi, DW's correspondent in Beirut, says there will be a cabinet meeting on Monday. "According to my information, the government might resign then. The prime minister has asked the ministers to hold their resignations until Monday. The PM is under pressure from his political allies. His statement about early elections has led to tensions between the allies. Elections in Lebanon are a complicated affair," he said.


ed,dj/rc (AFP, Reuters)

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