Protesters Urge Lebanese Government to Resign Following Beirut Port Explosion

The second Egyptian plane with medical aid arrived in Lebanon Saturday morning and was received by the Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon Yasser Alawi and some Lebanese officials

The foreign ministry, the environment ministry and the economy ministry were occupied by angry demonstrators who called for the downfall of Lebanon's ruling elite five days after a blast ripped through the Lebanese capital causing widespread destruction.

Dozens of people wounded during the violence also needed treatment in hospitals already bursting with the injured from Tuesday's mega-blast and coronavirus patients.

"We call on all the anguished Lebanese people to take to the streets to demand the prosecution of all the corrupt", said Sami Rammah, the retired general who spearheaded the short-lived occupation of the foreign ministry Saturday.

Lebanese officials said the blast was caused by the detonation of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stored unsafely at the port for six years. "We want the death of the old Lebanon and the birth of a new one", said Tarek, a 23-year-old university student who had prepared a mix of water and paint in a bottle to throw at the police.

In an address to the nation late on Saturday, Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who has been in power since February after former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's government was forced to resign in the face of the mass anti-establishment protests, said he would introduce a draft bill on Monday to hold an early election.

Rage against the government spiked after the Beirut port explosion Tuesday that killed almost 160 people and injured 6,000 while leaving much of the coastline mangled. Some hung symbolic nooses in Martyr's Square.

Thousands of people poured into Beirut's main square, where they set up symbolic nooses to hang politicians whose corruption and negligence they blame for Tuesday's explosion at the Port of Beirut.

"We are in trouble here because on one hand, protesters are burning buildings and if I send the fire trucks to put the fire out, I am afraid protesters might attack and hurt the police and firefighters", Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud told CNN.

The explosion came during the worst economic recession in Lebanon on record.

The state, which is investigating the cause of the explosion, has been conspicuously absent from the ravaged streets of Beirut, with nearly zero involvement in the cleanup, which has been left to teams of young volunteers with brooms who fanned out to sweep up broken glass and reopen roads.

The protests came as senior officials from the Middle East and Europe visited in a show of solidarity with the tiny country that is still in shock.

Samy Gemayel made his comments on Saturday during the funeral of a senior official with the Kataeb Party who was killed in Tuesday's blast that destroyed Beirut's port and damaged the capital.

The Association of Banks in Lebanon, also an obvious target for protesters who have routinely nicknamed their rulers "the government of banks", was ransacked, an AFP reporter said.

The Netherlands also announced that its ambassador's wife had died on Saturday of injuries sustained in the blast.

The first to arrive Saturday was Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the chief of the 22-member Arab League as well as Turkey's vice president and foreign minister.

At the site of the blast, workers continued searching for dozens of missing people.

Worldwide aid has been flowing to Lebanon for days, and several field hospitals have been set up around Beirut to help treat the wounded.

The World Food Programme has promised food for affected families and wheat imports to replace lost stocks from the silos, and U.S. President Donald Trump said he would join other leaders in a conference call Sunday to discuss coordinating worldwide aid.

The protesters were spurred by the major explosion this week at a Beirut port where ammonium nitrate was being held. It made an unscheduled detour to Beirut as the Russian shipowner was struggling with debts and hoped to earn some extra cash in Lebanon. He added that his government is ready to use the Turkish port of Mersin to receive products that can be later sent to Lebanon in smaller ships.

In 2014, the material was moved from the ship and placed in a warehouse at the port where it stayed until the explosion.



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