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Macron visits the hard-hit Gemmayzeh neighborhood. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron walked through the blast-damaged streets of Beirut on Thursday, swarmed by people chanting for the fall of Lebanon's government and pleading for international aid.

Why it matters: Lebanon is at a breaking point. Its economy was collapsing and its government hardly functioning — all before a massive explosion destroyed swathes of the capital city, including its vital port.

  • Macron appears to be the first national leader, foreign or domestic, to visit with residents of Beirut's hard-hit neighborhoods.

What he's saying: The French leader promised to deliver a "new political pact" for Lebanon.

  • "I will propose a new political pact in Lebanon, and I will be back in September, and if they can't do it, I'll take my political responsibility," he told a crowd, per AFP's Mohamad Ali Harissi.

Between the lines: That's quite a statement from the leader of a former colonial power.

  • It shows both Macron's willingness to position himself as a — perhaps the — global leader, and the utter lack of faith Lebanese people have in their own government to rebuild.

On the ground: The scenes have been remarkable, particularly just two days after the explosion.

  • Multiple videos have captured Macron promising to provide aid directly to the people of Lebanon, who have been shouting to him that their leaders cannot be trusted.
  • Crowds have swarmed around him, desperate to be heard. "Please help us. What are you doing to help us?" one man could be heard shouting through tears.
  • Macron pushed aside his security detail to hug one woman, the Washington Post's Liz Sly reports.

Where things stand: The death toll in Beirut has surpassed 135, with at least 5,000 injured, in what appears to have been an accidental explosion.

  • It occurred at a warehouse that had been storing 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate for nearly seven years, apparently as a result of government inaction. The explosive material had been impounded from a ship.
  • Several port officials are under house arrest.

Go deeper

Nov 10, 2020 - World

Exclusive: Bahaa Hariri says Lebanon and Israel should resolve disputes, move toward peace

Bahaa Hariri, the billionaire son of the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, told Axios he thinks Lebanon and Israel should resolve their border disputes and move toward a peace deal.

Why it matters: Israel is an enemy country under Lebanese law, making this a very unusual statement from a member of one of Lebanon’s most prominent political dynasties. Bahaa’s brother Saad is currently trying to form a new government in Lebanon and is known for holding hardline positions on Israel.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases hold steady at 65,000 per day — CDC declares racism "a serious public health threat" — WHO official: Brazil is dealing with "raging inferno" of a COVID outbreak
  2. Vaccines: America may be close to hitting a vaccine wall — Pfizer asks FDA to expand COVID vaccine authorization to adolescents — CDC says Johnson & Johnson vaccine supply will drop 80% next week.
  3. Economy: Treasury says over 156 million stimulus payments sent out since March — More government spending expected as IMF projects 6% global GDP growth.
  4. Politics: Supreme Court ends California's coronavirus restrictions on home religious meetings
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Second senior Matt Gaetz aide resigns amid federal investigation

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) walking out of the Capitol in January 2021. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Devin Murphy, Rep. Matt Gaetz's legislative director, has stepped down amid a federal investigation into sex trafficking allegations against the Florida Republican congressman, the New York Times first reported and Axios has confirmed.

The latest: "It's been real," Murphy wrote in an email, obtained by Axios, to Republican legislative directors on Saturday morning, with the subject line: "Well...bye."

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