The people of Beirut are enraged with the government after 2,750 tonnes of stored ammonium nitrate exploded at the Beirut port on Wednesday. Further investigation revealed that the explosion was caused by a stock that was confiscated from the Russian-owned Moldova-flagged cargo ship MV Rhosus in 2013, and was never moved despite multiple warnings from various custom officials. Combined with the financial crisis that Lebanon is still reeling from, there is widespread anger building against the government.
The aftermath of Beirut bombing
Demonstrators in downtown Beirut attacked the convoy of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and entered into a brawl with his security personnel as the first visible sign of violent dissent, on Wednesday. On Saturday, protesters stormed Lebanon’s Association of Banks and the Energy Ministry in an attempt to take over the country’s ministries. The army was deployed to stop the protests and drove them out of the Foreign Ministry. Red Cross figures on that day reveal that 728 protesters were wounded in the ordeal. Lebanese authorities have been accused of excessive use of force, by journalists who were injured while covering the protests.
The United States Embassy in Beirut also tweeted in support of peaceful protest, and called for political reform. On Sunday, nearly 10,000 protesters marched to Beirut’s Martyr square to express their dissent. According to a report from Reuters, when protesters tried to reach the parliament, tear gas was deployed. Protesters hurled stones at the police, who used tear gas and live bullets to disperse the crowds, injuring more than 700 protesters.
Two ministers - from the Information Ministry and then the Environment Ministry have sent in their resignations, saying that Prime Minister Hassan Diab has failed the people. Six Members of Parliament have resigned as well.
Meanwhile, the international community has come together to deliver aid to Lebanon at this point in time. President Emmanuel Macron of France personally went to Lebanon and visited the blast site. On a UN-endorsed virtual donor’s conference arranged by President Macron $300m has been raised for healthcare, food, security, education and housing for the Lebanese public. However, in a joint statement, the donor countries have said the financial aid “will be delivered directly to the people.” Lebanese people in Chile lit candles to stand in solidarity with the people of Beirut, and have donated money towards the 300,000+ people affected by the blast.