Lebanese protesters stormed government ministries in Beirut and trashed the offices of the Association of Lebanese Banks yesterday, TV footage showed, as shots were fired in growing protests over this week’s devastating explosion.
A policeman was killed during the clashes, a spokesman said. A policeman at the scene said the officer died when he fell into an elevator shaft in a nearby building after being chased by protesters.
The Red Cross said it had treated 117 people for injuries on the scene while another 55 were taken to hospital. A fire broke out in central Martyrs’ Square.
Dozens of protesters broke into the foreign ministry where they burnt a framed portrait of President Michel Aoun, representative for many of a political class that has ruled Lebanon for decades and that they say is to blame for its deep political and economic crises.
“We are staying here. We call on the Lebanese people to occupy all the ministries,” a demonstrator said by megaphone.
About 10,000 people gathered in Martyrs’ Square, some throwing stones.
Police fired tear gas when some protesters tried to break through the barrier blocking a street leading to parliament, a Reuters journalist said.
Police confirmed shots and rubber bullets had been fired. It was not immediately clear who fired the shots. TV footage showed protesters also breaking into the energy and economy ministries. The protesters said their politicians should be hanged and punished over their negligence that they say led to Tuesday’s gigantic explosion that killed 158 people and injured more than 6,000.
The protesters chanted “the people want the fall of the regime”, reprising a popular chant from the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.
They held posters saying “Leave, you are all killers”. Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the only way out was early parliamentary elections.
The protests were the biggest since October when thousands of people took to the streets in protest against the ruling elite’s corruption, bad governance and mismanagement. “You have no conscience, you have no morality. Go home! Leave! Resign, Enough is enough,” shouted one of the protesters.Many people denounced their leaders, saying none of them visited the site of the blast to comfort them or assess the damage while French President Emmanuel Macron flew from Paris and went straight to the scene to pay his tribute.
Lebanon’s Kataeb Party, a Christian group that opposes the government backed by the Hezbollah, announced the resignation of its three lawmakers from parliament. Macron, who visited Beirut on Thursday, promised aid to rebuild the city would not fall into “corrupt hands”.
He will host a donor conference for Lebanon via video link today, his office said.
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