Thousands rally in blast-hit Beirut, police intervene

The police are forced to intervene after around 7,000 take to streets in Beirut to protest the government’s handling of the aftermath of a recent huge deadly explosion in the Lebanese capital that sent the country’s main grain silo up in smoke.

The rallies were held at the city’s Martyrs’ Square on Saturday, with the protesters asking the officials to resign, Reuters reported. The participants shouted slogans, blaming officials for mismanagement leading to the Tuesday blast in addition to unsatisfactory performance in its wake.

Some were hurling stones as the demonstrators tried to force their way past a barricade in a street that leads to parliament.

The police were then forced to fire teargas canisters to disperse the protesters.

So far, the blast has claimed at least 158 people and injured 6,000 others. Some 300,000 have also been made homeless, and more than 60 are still unaccounted for.

While nothing has been determined for sure, some media outlets have blamed the incident on unsafe storing away at the site of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material that is used as fertilizer.

The government has promised to hold those responsible to account, and has placed several officials under house arrest.

The country was already dealing with financial constraints that had brought the members of the nation to the streets on many occasions.

Army advises restraint

The Lebanese Army, meanwhile, posted a tweet, sympathizing with the demonstrators, but urging them to exercise restraint.

The public have to adhere to the peaceful means of protest, the tweet added, reminding that the Tuesday tragedy took its toll on the Army too as it involved many of its forces.

It asked the angry public to refrain from blocking roads and inter-city routes, and causing damage to public and private property.

‘Parl. party in mass resignation’

According to the Lebanese online newspaper el-Nashra, Samy Gemayel, president of Kataeb, a Christian parliamentary party, announced its legislators’ mass resignation.

Gemayel made the remarks on the sidelines of funeral prayers that were being held for Nazar Najarian, the party’s secretary general, who lost his life in the explosion.

Arab League head visits Beirut

Also on Saturday, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Abul Gheit arrived in Beirut in a show of solidarity and in order to discuss assistance for Lebanon after the tragedy, Lebanon’s Naharnet news website reported.

“The Lebanese are strong in spite of the mega catastrophe that hit your country. The Arab League is ready to mobilize Arab efforts to provide assistance to Lebanon after the Beirut port explosion,” he told Lebanese President Michel Aoun during a meeting at the presidential palace.

The tragedy has been ensued by far-and-wide sympathetic gestures from within the region and beyond.

Most recently, Yemenis gathered at Cairo Castle in the western city of Ta’izz  to show their solidarity with the country in the wake of the incident.

PM calls for early parliamentary elections

In a televised address, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said he would propose early elections to help the country work itself out of the dire situation.

“We can’t exit the country’s structural crisis without holding early parliamentary elections,” he added.


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