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Beirut police fire tear gas as protesters regroup and two ministers quit

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Beirut police fire tear gas as protesters regroup and two ministers quit

By Michael Georgy

 

2020-08-09T185556Z_1_LYNXNPEG780H0_RTROPTP_4_LEBANON-SECURITY-BLAST-PROTESTS.JPG

Police officers are seen during a protest following Tuesday's blast, in Beirut, Lebanon August 9, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

 

BEIRUT (Reuters) - 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.

 

French President Emmanuel Macron hosted an emergency donors conference on Sunday, urging world leaders to support Beirut after its devastating explosion. But on the

capital's streets calls are getting louder for the government to step down. David Doyle reports.

 

 

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.

One policeman was killed and the Red Cross said more than 170 people were injured in clashes.

 

'CHANGE THE GOVERNMENT'

"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."

 

(Additional reporting by Maher Chmaytelli and Richard Lough; Editing by Frances Kerry and Nick Macfie)

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2020-08-10
 

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This country as it's been known to date is finished, when it emerges in the coming years it will be nothing like it was before.

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1 hour ago, webfact said:

Beirut police fire tear gas as protesters regroup and two ministers quit

I guess the quitting ministers are trying to get out quick before they get hung

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Posted (edited)

I have a feeling the guy who 'did a runner' from Japan, Carlos Ghosn might just have a few things to say about this.

 

Potentially we're looking at someone to take over the country in this guy. He also lives in Beirut and there was talk of him participating in government.

 

Looks like it's time for change and the stars may be aligning for this guy. Just a hunch....

Edited by ukrules
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a bit strange that an explosion is a reason to go riot against your government and asking france to come take over the country...

 

I see a big exodus again, to western countries ... you know, economical refugies

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I see lasting change in Lebanon to be as reachable as it happening in Thailand.  

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8 hours ago, Bender Rodriguez said:

a bit strange that an explosion is a reason to go riot against your government and asking france to come take over the country...

 

I see a big exodus again, to western countries ... you know, economical refugies

They have been protesting, but now they want blood-not only because of the explosion-this has been building for decades 

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16 hours ago, ukrules said:

This country as it's been known to date is finished, when it emerges in the coming years it will be nothing like it was before.

 

15 hours ago, ezzra said:

could be a watershed moment and great opportunity to once and for all  clean up the rampant corruptions, crumbling economy and kick out Iran's strong influences it's proxy and lacky army the Hezbollah and to regain control of lebanon for the lebanese people one again...

 

Lebanon been through much much worse over recent decades. There's little reason to believe this incident would somehow transform the country.

 

It may (or might) serve to enhance some of the already built up public dissatisfaction with a whole range of issues, but even so, it's hard to see what positive outcome could realistically be achieved.

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10 hours ago, Bender Rodriguez said:

a bit strange that an explosion is a reason to go riot against your government and asking france to come take over the country...

 

I see a big exodus again, to western countries ... you know, economical refugies

 

Protests over issues of corruption, economic crisis, political stalemate, lacking services, inequality and whatnot have been a common feature for at least a couple of years now. The list of grievances seems to grow with each passing month, and it's not like things were rosy before that. Rioting against the government etc. is nothing new, and seeing as how many Lebanese are fed up with their politicians, and the apparently never ending issues associated with Lebanon's political system, it's not surprising radical ideas are floated.

 

Talking about refugees, might be worth mentioning Lebanon itself plays host to a large number (certainly relative to population) of refugees. That's another multifaceted standing issue. 

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Posted (edited)

Apparently the entire government in Lebanon are stepping down, including the Prime Minister

 

It's happening right now

Edited by ukrules

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2 minutes ago, ukrules said:

Apparently the entire government in Lebanon are stepping down, including the Prime Minister

 

How convenient for them. Not like this didn't came up a while back when the economy tanked. Or when sanctions got tightened. Or when political factions couldn't agree on moving forward. Government stepping down just means another political deadlock in the making. Wonder how this move will play with regard to the monies just "pledged" for Lebanon. My guess, some donors would use it as reason to bail as well.

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8 minutes ago, Morch said:

My guess, some donors would use it as reason to bail as well.

I guess that would depend on what comes next.

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3 minutes ago, ukrules said:

I guess that would depend on what comes next.

 

Pledging money is not quite the same as actually giving it. The amounts pledged are almost always higher than the funds materializing. As there were already conditions and words of caution attached to this pledge effort, referencing issues with corruption and Lebanon's political situation, it's hard to see how the current move will improve things in this regard.

 

What's coming is that they'll need to form a new government. Not a quick or easy task at the best of times.

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