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‘Beirut catastrophe’: Lebanese ministers quit as dozens injured in violent protests

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Lebanon’s information minister Manal Abdel Samad announced her resignation, saying Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government failed to live up to the aspirations of the Lebanese people.

At least 728 people have been wounded in clashes with authorities as thousands of protesters hit the streets of central Beirut as riot police fire tear gas at those trying to break through a barrier to the parliament building. One police officer was also reported killed.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab has called for early polls after Tuesday’s deadly blast, saying it is the only way out of the country’s crisis.

At least 158 people were killed in the explosion and more than 6,000 others injured, but numbers are expected to rise as search and rescue operations continue for missing people.

Here are the latest updates:

Sunday, August 9
11:37 GMT – Ex-Lebanon premier denies knowledge of Beirut shipment
Former Lebanese premier Tammam Salam has denied receiving correspondence or information about the arrival of hazardous chemical materials shipment in Beirut, which caused the deadly blast in the capital on Tuesday.

In a statement, Salam’s media office said reports alleging that he was aware of the arrival of a ship carrying chemical materials to Beirut were “false and bare of truth.”

Earlier, media reports suggested that a Lebanese court had ordered the ship to unload its cargo at the Beirut port when Salam was the prime minister.

He was premier between February 2014 to December 2016.

10:56 GMT – Lebanese president condemns calls for international probe into blast
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said that demands for an international investigation into Tuesday’s deadly blast at the port of Beirut aimed at “wasting time”.

“The judiciary should be swift to confirm who is a criminal and who is innocent [with regards to the blast],” said Aoun in a statement released by his office and shared over Twitter.

10:29 GMT – Sixth lawmaker resigns from Lebanon’s parliament
Independent member of parliament Nehmat Freim has stepped down, making her the sixth lawmaker to quit a position in parliament since Tuesday’s deadly blast.

09:50 GMT – Furious Lebanese vow new protests over deadly mega-blast
Lebanese protesters enraged by official negligence blamed for Beirut’s enormous and deadly explosion vowed to rally again after a night of street clashes in which they stormed several ministries.

“Prepare the gallows because our anger doesn’t end in one day,” warned one message circulating on social media in response to Tuesday’s earthquake-strength blast of a huge pile of industrial chemicals.

08:42 GMT – Lebanon’s information minister resigns in first gov’t resignation over blast
Lebanon information minister Manal Abdel Samad announced her resignation, saying Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government failed to live up to the aspirations of the Lebanese people.

“I want to apologise to the lebanese people, whose aspirations we were unable to fulfil due to the difficulty of the challenges facing us,” she said in a short statement from the ministry.

Abdel Samad said she had tried in Diab’s government to address the demands of an unprecedented uprising that rocked the country last October, “but change remained far.”

Abdel Samad added the government did not live up to her aspirations and she was resigning out of respect for those killed, injured and missing after the massive Beirut explosion earlier this week, “and in response to the people’s demand for change.”

Abdel Samad is the second minister to resign from Diab’s government in one week, after Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti resigned on Monday.

08:01 GMT – Lebanon’s Maronite patriarch says government must quit if it can’t change
Lebanon’s Christian Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai called on the cabinet to resign if it cannot “change the way it governs” the country and help it to recover from Tuesday’s catastrophic explosion.

07:23 GMT – Beirut port blast crater 43 metres deep, says security official
The huge ammonium nitrate explosion in Beirut’s port that devastated much of the city left a crater 43 metres (141 feet) deep, a security official.

“The explosion in the port left a crater 43 meters deep” Tuesday, the official told AFP, citing reports by French experts conducting an assessment of the disaster area.

About 43 tonnes of relief supplies from the German Red Cross arrived in Beirut overnight, the German Ambassador to Lebanon said over Twitter.

The aid, received by the Lebanese Red Cross, included medicine, first aid and protective equipment.

05:55 GMT – France’s Macron to host donor conference for blast-stricken Lebanon
French President Emmanuel Macron will host US President Donald Trump and other political leaders for a UN-endorsed donors’ conference by video to raise emergency relief for Lebanon following this week’s massive explosion in Beirut.

Trump will participate in the video-link conference.

A Macron aide declined on Saturday to set a target for the conference. Emergency aid was needed for reconstruction, food aid, medical equipment and schools and hospitals, the official said.

Representatives of Britain, the European Union, China, Russia, Egypt and Jordan are expected to join the conference, hosted by Macron from his summer retreat on the French Riviera.

Israel and Iran will not take part, the Elysee Palace official said.

05:15 GMT – Independent candidates face uphill battle in Lebanon elections
Independent candidates face an uphill battle in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections, which Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced on Saturday.

Al Jazeera correspondent Zeina Khodr said that there are concerns that the sectarian based political system in the country, as well as it’s electoral law “won’t give independent candidates a chance.”

“It will be a long battle for change” in Lebanon, she wrote on social media on Sunday.

03:24 GMT – South Korea extends $1m emergency aid to Lebanon
South Korea has announced that it is extending a $1m emergency aid package to Lebanon, following the devastating blast that killed over 100 people and displaced hundreds of thousands of people in Beirut.

Even before the disaster truck on Tuesday, Lebanon has already been facing a severe economic slump made worse by the coronavirus outbreak.

02:30 GMT – As many as 10,000 protesters hit Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square
As many as 10,000 protesters had gathered in Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square on Saturday, some throwing stones at police, according to reports and social media posts.

Police fired tear gas when some protesters tried to break through the barrier blocking a street leading to parliament, a Reuters journalist said.

Police confirmed shots and rubber bullets had been fired. It was not immediately clear who fired the shots. Riot police shot dozens of teargas canisters at protesters, who hit back with firecrackers and stones.

Another video from today’s protest #Teargas #Beirut #LebanonProtests pic.twitter.com/FTsIjugDvJ

00:10 GMT – Lebanese authorities accused of excessive use of force
At least 14 journalists and other media workers have been attacked while covering the latest protests in Lebanon, according to a journalist for the independent news website The Public Source.

Authorities have been accused of using excessive force against the protesters, who were demonstrating against government inaction following the deadly blast in Beirut on Tuesday.

Source: Al Jazeera


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