Aug 8, 2020 - World

Security forces and protesters clash in Beirut after devastating explosion

Protesters clashing with security forces in Beirut on Aug. 8.

Protesters clashing with security forces in Beirut on Aug. 8. Photo: Joseph Eid/AFP via Getty Images

Lebanese security forces fired tear gas at protesters on Saturday who threw stones in Beirut over a massive explosion that devastated the city earlier this week, injuring roughly 6,000 people and leaving nearly 160 dead, AP reports.

Why it matters: Activists say political corruption and negligence are to blame for Tuesday's blast, caused by a store of ammonium nitrate left unsecured near the city's port for more than six years.

What they're saying: Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in a televised speech Saturday he intends to propose early elections in a draft bill and said he would give all political parties two months to work on structural reforms.

  • Beirut’s governor said the explosion, by far the biggest blast in Lebanese history, caused an estimated $10 billion-$15 billion in damages, per AP. It also destroyed over 6,000 buildings and left hundreds of thousands of people without homes.

The state of play: Clashes between demonstrators and security forces erupted near Lebanon’s Parliament mid-afternoon Saturday, according to the New York Times.

  • Demonstrators pulled down concrete barriers and threw rocks at security forces, who retaliated with volleys of tear gas to push protesters from the area.
  • "Anger at the country’s top politicians was tangible at the protests in the square, where protesters erected gallows and conducted ceremonial hangings of cardboard cutouts of Mr. Aoun, Nabih Berri, the speaker of Parliament, and Mr. Nasrallah of Hezbollah," the Times writes.
  • Lebanese Red Cross officials said more than 110 people were wounded during the demonstrations and 32 people were taken to hospital, according to Reuters.

Before the explosion, Lebanon was already struggling with a crippling financial crisis, the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic and a massive influx of refugees fleeing conflicts in Syria.

Go deeper: Pentagon chief says "most believe" Beirut blast was an accident

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