Clashes in Beirut as anger swells over port blast: Live updates

Angry protesters storm gov’t buildings as tens of thousands rally against Lebanon’s ruling class after deadly explosion.

protests called for in central Beirut days after devastating explosion 3
Demonstrators throw stones during a protest on August 8 as they try to break through a barrier to the parliament building following Tuesday's blast in Beirut, Lebanon [REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani [Daylife]
  • Thousands of protesters have gathered in central Beirut seeking justice over Tuesday’s catastrophic explosion as riot police fire tear gas at those trying to break through a barrier to the parliament building.

  • One policeman killed in the Beirut clashes; dozens of protesters wounded.

  • Lebanese authorities have taken into custody 19 people as part of an investigation.

  • US President Donald Trump says he will join a conference call to discuss aid to Lebanon.

  • At least 158 people were killed in the explosion and more than 6,000 others injured, but numbers are expected to rise as search and rescue operations continue for missing people.

INTERACTIVE: Beirut explosion map

Here are the latest updates:

Saturday, August 8

23:35 GMT – Hundreds injured during demonstrations in Beirut     

More than 728 people have been wounded following protests in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, in response to the deadly blast that killed at least 158 people on Tuesday. 

Protesters ahve been demanding action from the government amid the economic crisis the country is facing even before the disaster struck.

18:59 GMT – Lebanese army expelling protesters from foreign ministry     

The Lebanese army drove out a group of protesters who had taken over the foreign ministry building in central Beirut hours earlier.

The demonstrators, led by retired army officers, had stormed the building and declared it the “headquarters of the revolution”, but they were expelled three hours later when large army reinforcements muscled in.

18:38 GMT – US says supports right of Lebanese to peaceful protest, urges political reforms

The US government supports Lebanese demonstrators’ right to peaceful protest and urges all involved to refrain from violence, the US Embassy in Beirut said.

The embassy also said in a tweet that the Lebanese people “deserve to have leaders who listen to them and change course to respond to popular demands for transparency and accountability”.

18:13 GMT – Army and protesters clash near Beirut’s main highway 

Army soldiers and protesters clashed by Beirut’s main ring road near the city centre amid ongoing anti-government rallies, an Al Jazeera reporter said.

The army attacked protesters with sticks, beating a large number of them, while demonstrators responded by throwing rocks at the troops.

“Take off the suit and come stand with us, then you can wear it again with honour,” a protester said as a number of them confronted a line of soldiers. 

“Tell us what you get from being with them? We really don’t understand it, why are you doing this to us?”

Beirut protests
Riot police used excessive amounts of tear gas in a bid to disperse protesters trying to break through a barrier leading to the parliament building [Tamara Saade/Al Jazeera]

16:57 GMT – Latest Lebanese Red Cross figures from protest site

 – At least 238 proesters have been wounded in central Beirut;

– 63 protesters have been transported to nearby hospitals;

– 175 others have been treated at the scene of the protests.

16:38 GMT – Protesters storm Association of Banks HQ, energy ministry

A group of protesters have stormed Lebanon’s Association of Banks, as well as the Lebanese energy ministry as part of their attempt to take over the country’s ministries.

16:18 GMT – Policeman killed in clashes with demonstrators in Beirut, police says

A Lebanese policeman was killed in clashes with demonstrators in central Beirut, a police spokesman said.

The protests against the ruling political establishement have also left more than 100 people injured and dozens hospitalised.

Beirut protests
Dozens of protesters have been wounded at the site of the protests, according to the Lebanese Red Cross [Tamara Saade/Al Jazeera]

15:49 GMT – Prime Minister Hassan Diab calls for early parliamentary elections

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab has called for early polls after Tuesday’s deadly blast, saying it is the only way out of the country’s crisis.

In a national address, the premier said he will introduce a draft bill proposing early elections as thousands of angry protesters took to the streets.

“We can’t exit the country’s structural crisis without holding early parliamentary elections … We need a new political elite and a new parliament,’ Diab said.

He added that a national investigation into the blast will expand until it gets to “everyone involved” in the explosion.

Beirut protests
‘They want politicians hanged, they want politicians executed,’ Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr said [Tamara Saade/Al Jazeera]

15:47 GMT – Protesters take over Lebanese economy ministry building

A group of protesters have taken over the offices of the economy ministry in downtown Beirut, throwing down a rain of documents and a picture of President Michel Aoun, an Al Jazeera reporter at the scene said.

15:28 GMT – At least 32 protesters taken to hospitals, 110 treated at the scene

At least 32 demonstrators have been transported to nearby hospitals from Beirut’s protest site, the Lebanese Red Cross said.

More than 110 others are being treated at the scene in Martyrs’ Square.

15:01 GMT – Protesters take over Lebanese foreign ministry 

A group of protesters led by retired Lebanese army officers stormed the foreign ministry in central Beirut and declared it the “headquarters of the revolution”.     

The demonstrators also burned a portrait of President Michel Aoun.

“We are staying here. We call on the Lebanese people to occupy all the ministries,” one demonstrator said on a megaphone.

The takeover, which was aired live on local TV, happened as most of the security forces’ attention was focused on a tense demonstration against the ruling elite a few hundred metres down the road.

14:45 GMT – At least 28 protesters taken to hospitals, 102 treated at the scene

At least 28 demonstrators have been transported to nearby hospitals from Beirut’s protest site, the Lebanese Red Cross said.

More than 100 others are being treated at the scene in Martyrs’ Square.

14:23 GMT – At least 22 protesters taken to hospitals, 87 treated at the scene

At least 22 demonstrators have been transported to nearby hospitals from Beirut’s protest site, the Lebanese Red Cross said, adding that 87 others are being treated at the scene in Martyrs’ Square.

14:10 GMT – At least 14 injured protesters taken to hospital 

At least 14 demonstrators have been transported to nearby hospitals from Beirut’s protest site, the Lebanese Red Cross said. 

It added that 44 others are being treated at the scene in central Beirut.

14:03 GMT – Lebanese army to protesters: Do not encroach on public and private property

The Lebanese army issued a statement on its official Twitter account urging protesters not to destroy or damage public and private property.

“The Army’s command expresses its understanding of the pain that is in the hearts of the Lebanese people … and reminds the protesters of the obligation to adhere to peaceful means of expression, and refrain from blocking roads and encroaching on public and private property,” the statement read.

14:00 GMT – Thousands gather in Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square 

Thousands of people poured into Beirut’s main square hanging up symbolic nooses that they say officials should be hanged with over this week’s blast amid clashes between protesters and riot police near parliament.

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr at the scene said civil society groups have been calling on people to return to the streets, saying “enough is enough”.

“There’s a lot of anger, a lot of rage, people are calling for revenge and justice. They say today is about justice for the victims of Tuesday’s blast,” Khodr said. “They want politicians hanged, they want politicians executed.”

According to Khodr, there is a sense of defiance among the demonstrators, despite security forces using “excessive amounts of tear gas” in a bid to disperse them. 

“People have pushed back, there has been running battles as protesters try to storm the parliament building.”

protests called for in central Beirut days after devastating explosion 3
Demonstrators throw stones during a protest as they try to break through a barrier to get to the parliament building following Tuesday’s blast, in Beirut, Lebanon [Thaier Al-Sudani/Daylife]

13:58 GMT – Death toll rises to 158, Lebanon health ministry says

The death toll from Tuesday’s catastrophic explosion has risen to 158, the Lebanese health ministry media office said.

The number of people injured exceeds 6,000 and 21 are still reported missing, it said. 

13:27 GMT – Lebanese riot police fire tear gas at protesters in Beirut

Lebanese riot police fired tear gas at demonstrators trying to break through a barrier to get to the parliament building in central Beirut.

Hello, this is Farah Najjar taking over from my colleague Umut Uras.

11:40 GMT – Aoun and Johnson agree to work on recovery from blast

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Lebanese President Michel Aoun discussed Lebanon’s urgent humanitarian, medical and reconstruction needs following Tuesday’s devastating blast at Beirut port.

“President Aoun thanked the UK for the support provided to date, including the release of five million pounds ($6.5m) in emergency funding and deployment of HMS Enterprise,” Johnson’s office said in a statement.

“With Lebanon facing threats from a financial crisis, coronavirus and the effects of this tragic blast, they agreed to work with international partners to ensure the country’s long-term recovery and rehabilitation.”

Boris Johnson
Johnson’s office says Lebanon faces threats from a financial crisis, coronavirus and the effects of this tragic blast [Reuters]

11:00 GMT – Lebanon’s Kataeb Party: Three MPs resigning from parliament

Lebanon’s Kataeb Party, a Christian group which opposes the government supported by the Iran-backed Hezbollah, announced the resignation of its three MPs from parliament.

The decision was announced by party chief Samy Gemayel during the funeral of a leading member of the group who died in the catastrophic explosion at the port of Beirut on Tuesday, which destroyed parts of the Lebanese capital.

“The Kataeb MPs have decided … to move to confrontation for the sake of a free, sovereign, independent Lebanon,” he said. “I invite all honourable (MPs) to resign so that the people can decide who will govern them, without anybody imposing anything to them.”

10:30 GMT – At least 43 Syrians among people killed in Beirut blast

At least 43 Syrian nationals were among those killed in a massive explosion in the port of Beirut on Tuesday that destroyed parts of the Lebanese capital, according to the Syrian embassy in Beirut.

10:00 GMT – Independent MP to resign from ‘mafia’ parliament

Paula Yacoubian, a Lebanese independent member of parliament, said that she will resign later in the day.

“There’s no point being in parliament anymore, it is a mafia. And someone should show them how to do it,” she told Al Jazeera.

09:30 GMT – Wife of Dutch envoy to Lebanon dies after being hurt in Beirut blast

The wife of the Dutch ambassador to Lebanon died on Saturday after being seriously injured in the massive explosion that tore through Beirut’s port, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said.

Hedwig Waltmans-Molier, 55, was injured by the explosion as she stood next to her husband, ambassador Jan Waltmans, in the living room of their house in Beirut, the ministry said.

Tuesday’s blast caused extensive damage to the Dutch embassy, injuring four other people connected to it.

09:00 GMT – Turkey says it is ready to help rebuild port of Beirut

Turkey is ready to help rebuild the port of Beirut, which was destroyed by a massive blast on Tuesday, Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay said during a visit to Lebanon.

Turkey’s port of Mersin, on the Mediterranean, is ready to assist the port of Beirut, he said, without elaborating. 

08:30 GMT – France’s Macron to co-host Lebanon donor conference

French President Emmanuel Macron will host a donor conference for Lebanon via video-link on Sunday, his office said, as countries mobilise to help rebuild Beirut after this week’s massive blast.

The conference, which will be co-chaired by the United Nations, will seek pledges from participants including US President Donald Trump. It is expected to decide how to distribute the aid so it benefits the people directly.

Macron, who visited Beirut on Thursday, promised angry Lebanese crowds that aid to rebuild the city ravaged by Tuesday’s huge explosion would not fall into “corrupt hands”.

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers his speech during a press conference in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday Aug.6, 2020. The blast, which killed more than 130 people, wounded thousands and left tens o
French President Macron delivers a speech during a press conference in Beirut on Thursday [AP]

07:45 GMT – Arab League ‘ready’ to mobilise efforts to help Lebanon

Arab League Chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Saturday he would seek to mobilise Arab efforts to provide support to Lebanon after a massive explosion destroyed parts of its capital Beirut this week.

Speaking after a meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, he also told reporters that the Cairo-based league of Arab states was ready to assist the investigation into the blast.

“We are ready to help with all our means,” he said. 

07:00 GMT – More than 60 still missing after Beirut mega-blast: ministry

More than 60 people are still missing in Beirut, four days after a massive explosion at the port left more than 150 people dead, a health ministry official said. 

“The number of dead is 154, including 25 who have not yet been identified,” the official told the AFP news agency. “In addition, we have more than 60 people still missing.”

The health minister said on Friday that at least 120 of the 5,000 people who were injured on Tuesday are in a critical condition.

02:33 GMT – WHO worried Beirut’s coronavirus outbreak could worsen

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is scrambling to deploy $1.7m worth of personal protective equipment to Beirut after 17 containers filled with supplies and equipment for the COVID-19 response were destroyed in the city’s devastating chemical explosion.

Dr Rick Brennan, the WHO emergencies director for the eastern Mediterranean region, said 6,100 people were injured in the blast and stressed the importance of balancing the coronavirus response with pressing immediate needs such as trauma care and psychosocial support.

“This massive extra burden of injured people, displaced people, means that resources are going to have to be focused on that response – and we worry that an already overburdened health system and the Ministry of Health is now going to be overstretched to meet the needs of both the COVID response and the emergency response.”

00:13 GMT – Trump to join aid conference call for Beirut

US President Donald Trump has said he will join a conference call with Lebanese President Michel Aoun and other world leaders on Sunday to discuss aid for Lebanon.

Trump, who spoke earlier with the conference’s organiser, Frace’s President Emmanuel Macron, tweeted that “everyone wants to help!”.

“We will be having a conference call on Sunday with President Macron, leaders of Lebanon, and leaders from various other parts of the world,” he said.

He said he told Aoun that three large US aircraft were en route to Lebanon to deliver medical supplies, food, water and medical personnel.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the deadly blast in Lebanon. I’m Umut Uras in Doha. You can read the updates from yesterday (August 7) here.

Source: Al Jazeera