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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.

2 hours ago - World

Coast Guard searches for 39 people after boat capsizes off Florida coast

A U.S. Coast Guard ship leaving its base in Miami Beach, Florida, in July. Photo: AP/Marta Lavandier

U.S. Coast Guard crews were searching into the night for 39 people whose boat sank off Florida's coast over the weekend after traveling from the Bahamas.

The big picture: A "good Samaritan" contacted the Coast Guard about 8 a.m. Tuesday to say they "rescued a man clinging to a capsized vessel" 45 miles east of Fort Pierce, per a tweet from the agency, which noted it was dealing with "a suspected human smuggling venture."

Scoop: Race to lead NRCC kicks off

Reps. Darin LaHood (left) and Richard Hudson. Photos: Al Drago/Getty Images (LaHood) and Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Reps. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) and Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) are both telling colleagues they plan to run for chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee for the 2024 cycle, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans are confident they'll win the House majority back this fall, and the early jockeying to lead the caucus' fundraising apparatus is just another indicator of their optimism.

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