Lebanon police scuffle with demonstrators angered by blast

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Lebanese security forces fired tear gas to disperse dozens of anti-government demonstrators who gathered late on Thursday in anger at 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 with the wreckage from Tuesday's explosion still littering the entire area.

The protesters 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 reported.

Tuesday's blast killed nearly 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.

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 broke out as Lebanon's ambassador to Jordan resigned, saying “total negligence” by the country's authorities signalled the need for a leadership change.

In a televised statement aired by Lebanese broadcaster MTV, ambassador to Jordan Tracy Chamoun said she could "no longer tolerate" the government's ineptitude.

"I am announcing my resignation as an ambassador... in protest against state negligence, theft and lying," said Chamoun, who was appointed to her post in 2017 with the endorsement of President Michel Aoun.

"This disaster rang a bell: we should not show any of them mercy and they all must go," she added.

The country's ruling class, long accused of ineptitude and corruption, have been the target of a protest movement that began in October demanding systemic change.

The small Mediterranean nation has since been gripped by its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 war, further fuelling anti-government sentiments.

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

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Aid is loaded up on a plane to Lebanon at airport to support Beirut after the explosion, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Aid is loaded up on a plane to Lebanon at Dubai airport to support Beirut after the explosion, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Aid is loaded up on a plane to Lebanon at Dubai airport to support Beirut after the explosion, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Members of the Dutch Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) rescue team before their departure to Lebanon at Eindhoven Air Base in The Netherlands. EPA

Polish Search and Rescue Firefighters prepare to leave with aid to Beirut, in Warsaw, Poland. EPA

Members of the Czech search and rescue team board a plane at the Vaclav Havel airport in Prague, Czech Republic. AP Photo

French Securite Civile (Civil Security) personnel board a Airbus A330, at Roissy airport near Paris, as France is sending search and rescue experts aboard three military planes loaded with a mobile clinic and tonnes of medical equipment to Beirut. AFP

Palestinians donate blood during an event organized by the municipality, the Red Crescent, and the Ministry of Health in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip in support of Lebanon. AFP

French colonel Stanislas Rouqueyrol (L) delivers a speech to personnels of French Securite Civile (Civil Security) in Roissy airport, near Paris. AFP

French Gendarmes stand as medical and sanitary supplies are loaded aboard a Airbus A330, at Roissy airport, near Paris. AFP

Medical and sanitary supplies are loaded aboard a Airbus A330 as France is sending search and rescue experts aboard three military planes loaded with a mobile clinic and tonnes of medical equipment to Beirut, Roissy airport, near Paris. EPA

Crisis management specialists from France's Foreign Affairs ministry board a Airbus A330, at Roissy airport. AFP

A member of the Czech search and rescue team pets his service dog at the Vaclav Havel airport in Prague, Czech Republic. AP Photo

Czech Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) personnel prepare for boarding at the Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague, Czech Republic. EPA

A Russian Emergencies Ministry's truck with humanitarian aid drives into a cargo plane heading to Beirut. REUTERS

Polish Search and Rescue Firefighters prepare to leave with aid to Beirut, in Warsaw, Poland. EPA

Members of German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) arrive for their departure to Beirut at international airport in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. EPA

Members of a Dutch search and rescue team look on before boarding at Eindhoven Air Base. AFP

People collect donated items in Martyrs Square to help those affected by the prior days devastating explosion in Beirut. Getty Images

People collect donated items in Martyrs Square to help those affected by the devastating explosion. Getty Images

Updated: August 7, 2020 02:24 AM

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