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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Lebanon police fire tear gas at demonstrators angered by blast

Many protesters considered the government responsible for the blast through negligence [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 August, 2020

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Protesters gathered near parliament on Thursday to protest a government widely seen as corrupt and incompetent.
Lebanese security forces late on Thursday fired tear gas to disperse dozens of anti-government demonstrators angered by a cataclysmic blast widely seen as the most shocking expression yet of their government's incompetence.

The scuffles in central Beirut took place in a ravaged street leading to parliament, the wreckage from Tuesday's explosion still littering the entire area.

Protesters had sparked a blaze, vandalised stores and lobbed stones at security forces, according to the state-run National News Agency.

Police responded with tear gas to disperse the small, but clearly furious crowd, wounding some demonstrators, NNA said. 

Tuesday's blast killed more than 150 people, wounded at least 5,000 and destroyed entire districts of the capital.

Lebanese authorities said it was triggered by a fire igniting 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate negligently stored in a warehouse at Beirut's port since 2013.

Read more: Beirut Explosion: Be angry, not just sad, for Lebanon

This raised questions as to how such a huge cargo of the highly explosive substance could have been left unsecured for so long. 

The explosion came as Lebanon was already knee-deep in its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

It added to the grievances of a protest movement that emerged in October to demand the removal of a political class deemed inept and corrupt.

Activists have called for a large anti-government demonstration on Saturday - an event they have titled "hang them by the gallows." 

Thursday's scuffles erupted as Lebanon's ambassador to Jordan resigned, saying "total negligence" by the country's authorities signalled the need for a leadership change.

It is the second such resignation over Tuesday's blast, after lawmaker Marwan Hamadeh also stepped down on Wednesday.

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