The protesters, blaming Lebanon’s corrupt leaders and its dysfunctional government for responsibility for the disaster, set up hanging poles with ropes tied with loops, and as some of them tried to break through barriers blocking the road leading to parliament clashes broke out between them and security forces. The forces used tear gas against them, and many explosions were heard.
In tonight’s protest, the demonstrators called on foreign countries, among others, to overthrow Lebanon’s leaders and come to control them in their place. Next to a hanging pole they placed, they waved a sign against Lebanese leaders that read: “Resign or hang.” Many shouted “The people want to overthrow the regime”, and in the audience were seen posters that read, among other things, “Get out, you are all murderers.”
Even today, four days after the explosion, the search for 21 missing persons continues. The search is also being conducted at sea, into which some of the casualties were repulsed. The official death toll now stands at 158 people and the number of wounded at about 6,000. Up to a quarter of a million people lost their homes.
Shortly after the start of the demonstration in Beirut, it was reported that some of the demonstrators were trying to break through the roadblocks that prevented access to the streets leading to the parliament building, and that police were firing tear gas at them. According to photos from the scene, the protesters also set fire to a truck that helped the security forces block their way. It was also reported that protesters were throwing stones and that some were marching towards the Beirut City Hall building.
In the photos from the square where the demonstration began, a huge display of a victory box is shown, with the word “revolution” on it. Demonstrators were also seen carrying posters showing a picture of the blast on Tuesday with a Shiite headdress over it, hinting at Hassan Nasrallah’s alleged responsibility for the disaster. Yesterday, it will be recalled, Nasrallah first referred to the explosion, when in a speech he claimed that his organization had nothing to do with the port of Beirut and that he “knows the port of Haifa better.”
Lebanon, it will be recalled, was in a severe crisis even before this week’s disaster: its economic situation is dire, and it is failing to advance political and economic reforms that countries and organizations around the world are demanding of it in return for financial assistance from them. More than half of Lebanon’s residents have fallen into poverty in recent years, and in recent months Lebanese have had to deal not only with corona restrictions – but also with an irregular power supply due to the depletion of their country’s resources.
Lebanese government institutions suffer from chronic corruption that makes them ineffective. Many Lebanese also blamed them for the blast this week, especially given that many officials, including President Michel Aoun and the judiciary, have long known that the 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate – the exploded substance – are being held at the port of Beirut and endangering the public.
Even today, Beirut residents have been seen cleaning their homes and streets, and have continued to express frustration with their leaders. “We have no confidence in the government,” said Celine Divo, a university student, as she scrubbed blood stains from the walls of the ruined building where she lives. “I wish the UN had taken control of Lebanon.” Some residents said they were not surprised that French President Emmanuel Macron came to visit their neighborhoods near the site of the blast on Tuesday, while Lebanese leaders avoided it.
Marita Abu Jawda, who today distributed bread and cheese to those who or their property were damaged in the blast, said: “Macron offered us assistance and our government did nothing. It was always like that. After Macron’s visit I played the French national anthem in my car all day.” Maris Hayek, a 48-year-old psychologist whose parents’ home was destroyed in the blast, said: “We live in Ground Zero. I hope another country will just take over us. Our leaders are a bunch of corrupt people.”
Lebanon’s security forces have so far arrested 20 people in the wake of the blast, but many in the country are confident that the detainees are nothing more than hairy as hell, and that the real culprits are the politicians leading a corrupt system.
In the first step of a protest from within the political system, the Katib party, a Christian party that opposes the government, announced today that all three legislators on its behalf are resigning from parliament. “I invite all MPs who have the honor to resign so that the people can decide who will govern them, without anyone forcing anything on them,” said party leader Sami Jamail.
It is a Christian party that opposes the Lebanese government, in part because it is a government largely dependent on pro-Iranian Hezbollah. Hezbollah’s allies now enjoy a majority in the Lebanese parliament, which has 128 seats. The Katib party is one of the leaders accusing Hezbollah of establishing a “state within a state” in Lebanon. She claims that the Shiite organization, because of which many in the world refrain from doing business with Lebanon, is the main reason why Lebanon’s government institutions are not functioning.
In recent days, various countries have sent aid to Lebanon, and after Makron Hayom visited it on Tuesday, Arab League Secretary General Ahmad Abu al-Wright visited Beirut and met with President Michel Aoun. European Council President Charles Michel also arrived in the Lebanese capital today for a sympathy visit.
Syria announced today that 43 Syrian civilians were killed in an explosion on Tuesday in Beirut, and the Dutch Foreign Ministry announced that among those killed in the port was also the wife of the Dutch ambassador to Lebanon. Earlier this week it was reported that she was seriously injured, and today it was reported that she died from her wounds.
Meanwhile, Iranian media report that two Lebanese civilians – a father and daughter – were shot dead by an armed man on a Tehran street. The Mehr news agency reported that the shooter was riding a motorcycle and shot dead two people, Miriam David and her father Habib David, in northern Tehran. According to the report, the father was a professor of history and his daughter was 27 years old.
The background to the assassination in Tehran is unknown. Many Lebanese, mostly Shiites, work and live in Tehran, and Iran is a major ally of Hezbollah. Assassinations like the one reported today are rare in Iran, but when they do occur they are of interest, especially since in 2012-2010 armed motorcyclists shot dead several Iranian nuclear scientists on the streets of cities in the country.
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