8 Aug, 2020
photo: NATALIA SANCHA
The US Embassy has expressed its solidarity with anti-government protesters in Lebanon, urging all sides to “refrain from violence,” after clashes in blast-devastated Beirut left around 500 people injured.
Thousands of people gathered in Beirut on Saturday, demanding the government resign over corruption and negligence, which they believe led to the horrific explosion this week.
Amid clashes with riot police, protesters stormed several government buildings and attempted to reach the Parliament. Several military units were eventually deployed to help riot police restore order, forcing the US Embassy in Beirut to wade into the crisis, voicing its support for the citizens’ “right to peaceful protest.”
The Lebanese people have suffered too much and deserve to have leaders who listen to them and change course to respond to popular demands for transparency and accountability.
2/2 We support them in their right to peaceful protest, and encourage all involved to refrain from violence.
— U.S. Embassy Beirut (@usembassybeirut) August 8, 2020
Washington also encouraged “all involved to refrain from violence,” as the number of injuries climbed to at least 490, according to the emergency medical services cited by Al-Manar TV. Meanwhile, authorities said 70 security officers were injured and at least one them died in clashes.
While protests over the dire economic conditions in Lebanon have been frequent, the Beirut tragedy has reinvigorated the anti-government drive. Many blame the negligence of the authorities for the massive ammonium nitrate explosion on Tuesday that killed more than 150 people and sent several thousand to the hospital with various injuries from the devastating shockwave.
The incident triggered a massive international humanitarian response, with Washington joining the EU, Russia and many other states in pledging emergency assistance and support.
However, as a US Air Force transport plane delivered the first batch of aid, USAID also made sure to emphasise that the “United States has long supported the Lebanese people’s pursuit of economic prosperity and accountable governance, free of corruption and foreign pressure.”
أعلنت الولايات المتحدة عن مساعدات طارئة بقيمة 17 مليون دولار لمساعدة لبنان على تخطي المأساة المروعة.
The U.S. has already pledged $17 million in emergency aid to assist Lebanon in responding to the horrific tragedy on August 4.#InThisTogether @USAFCENT @CENTCOM @LebarmyOfficial pic.twitter.com/Avrytvgbgk
— U.S. Embassy Beirut (@usembassybeirut) August 7, 2020
As a large part of the city lies in ruins, with many victims still feared trapped under the rubble, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab addressed the nation saying that he was going to request an early parliamentary election, to quell the violence amid the emergency situation further exacerbated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.