Show of solidarity after blast as Lebanon braces for protest

LEBANON

Footage broadcast live by Lebanese TV channels shows protesters taking over the energy ministry building as powerless police officers look on, with one of the demonstrators saying: "They ruled Lebanon for 30 years, now Lebanon is ours". Activists hung symbolic nooses at Beirut's Martyrs' Square, aimed at negligent politicians, The Associated Press reports.

Meanwhile, Lebanon's prime minister said he would introduce legislation proposing early elections, calling on political parties to put aside disagreements. The Lebanese Red Cross said in a statement that at least 55 people had been transported to nearby hospitals and another 117 were treated at the scene.

The Trump administration has initially pledged more than $17 million in disaster aid for the country, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, said, and "will continue to help the Lebanese people as they recover from this tragedy".

According to a Downing Street official, the two men spoke on Saturday of the humanitarian and medical situation in the Lebanese capital, with Mr Johnson passing on the UK's condolences to the Lebanese people.

"You were corrupt, now you are criminals", read one banner at the demonstration, while protesters chanted: "Revenge, until this regime reaches an end".

On Tuesday, a fire at Beirut's port turned shortly after into a massive explosion with a huge mushroom cloud that Lebanese officials said came from a stockpile of ammonium nitrate in a warehouse.

The army attacked protesters with sticks, beating a large number of them, while demonstrators responded by throwing rocks at the troops.

After dozens of protesters broke into the foreign ministry, they burned a portrait of President Michel Aoun, who they say represents a political class that has ruled the nation for decades and has failed Lebanon.

"We support them in their right to peaceful protest, and encourage all involved to refrain from violence". We have nothing left: "no dreams, no future.no dignity, no money, and now, no houses", said Rita, 33, whose home was gutted by the blast.

The day started with funerals for some of the 158 people killed by Tuesday's monster blast but turned to rage when the largest anti-government protest in months escalated.

The Dutch foreign ministry said Saturday that Hedwig Waltmans-Molier, the wife of the Netherlands' ambassador to Lebanon, had also died of injuries sustained in the blast.

A virtual worldwide donor conference launched by Macron, with US President Donald Trump and other top leaders in attendance, is scheduled for Sunday.

A total of 21 people have been detained so far, including Badri Daher, director-general of Lebanon's customs authority.

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