Lebanese call for uprising after protests rock Beirut

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BEIRUT (Reuters) – Some Lebanese on Sunday called for a sustained uprising to topple their leaders amid public fury over this week’s devastating explosion in Beirut, and the country’s top Maronite Christian cleric said the cabinet should resign.

A man walks past a truck that was burned during a demonstration in Martyrs Square, following Tuesday’s explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, August 9, 2020. REUTERS / Thaier Al-Sudani

Protesters called on the government to step down for what they say was the negligence that led to Tuesday’s explosion. The anger turned on Saturday into scenes of violence in central Beirut.

Maronite Christian Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai said the cabinet should step down if it cannot “change the way it governs”.

“The resignation of a deputy or a minister is not enough (..) the whole government should resign if it is not able to help the country to recover,” he said. stated in his Sunday sermon.

Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad said she resigned on Sunday, citing the explosion and the government’s failure to carry out reforms.

Dozens of people were injured in Saturday’s protests, the largest since October, when thousands took to the streets to protest against corruption, bad governance and mismanagement.

About 10,000 people gathered in Martyrs Square, which was turned into a fighting zone in the evening between police and protesters who tried to break down a barrier along a road leading to parliament. Some protesters stormed government ministries and the Association of Lebanese Banks.

Protesters defied dozens of tear gas canisters that fired at them and threw stones and firecrackers at riot police, some of whom were taken in ambulances. A policeman was killed.

The Red Cross said it treated 117 people for injuries at the scene on Saturday, while 55 others were taken to hospital.

Soldiers in vehicles equipped with machine guns were stationed next to Place des Martyrs on Sunday.

“People should be sleeping in the streets and protesting the government until it falls,” lawyer Maya Habli said, as she inspected the demolished port where the explosion erupted.

The explosion killed 158 people and injured more than 6,000, destroying parts of the city and exacerbating months of political and economic crisis. Twenty-one people were still missing.

The prime minister and the presidency said 2,750 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, used in the manufacture of fertilizers and bombs, had been stored for six years without security measures in the port warehouse.

The government has said it will hold those responsible to account.

DISTRICTS eviscerated

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday hosted US President Donald Trump and other political leaders for a UN-approved donor conference via video to raise emergency relief for Lebanon.

The explosion hit a city reeling from the economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic. For many, it was a terrible 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 leave.”

The explosion devastated entire neighborhoods.

Slideshow (4 Images)

“Look at this,” said Eli Yazbak, the director of a fashion company whose 10-story headquarters was destroyed in the explosion.

“It took us 50 years back. We are facing crisis after crisis in Lebanon. It is time for the government to step down and let capable people run the country.

Additional reports by Maher Chmaytelli and Richard Lough; Editing by Frances Kerry

Our standards:Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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