One Week On – Turmoil in Beirut

Yesterday evening in Beirut, people held a vigil for the victims of the devastating explosion that struck the city on 4th August. They stood silently near the remains of the city’s port while church bells tolled and a Muslim call to prayer was broadcast at 18:08 local time.

Lebanese stand in silenceScreenshot from BBC video (see below)

That was the time at which 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, sitting in one of the port’s warehouses, was ignited by a nearby fire, exploding with such force that it killed more than 170 people, injured thousands and damaged an astonishing number of buildings, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless.

It is no surprise, therefore, that people have been protesting daily on the city’s streets, angry that so much hazardous material was kept in a place so close to the city centre and residential buildings.

And those protesters were not satisfied by the resignation of the Lebanese government on Monday, they want the whole, corrupt political system in Lebanon to change.

One of the reasons is the huge impact upon the people in the days since the explosion. Many of the city’s children are grappling with trauma. On the day of the explosion, one mother found her injured son sitting in the corner of a hospital emergency room, “trembling at the sight of badly injured people around him and blood dripping all over the floor.”

As well as three children dead and at least 31 seriously hurt, as many as 100,000 children have lost their homes, Many of them are traumatised, some no longer able to talk to anyone.

Having suffered much themselves, the Israelis are sympathetic to the situation of Beirut’s citizens and are acutely aware of the role that terrorist group Hezbollah has played in bringing this disaster upon the people.

Speaking to the French President by phone yesterday, Israel’s Prime Minister emphasised that Hezbollah’s weapons must be moved away from populated areas and he warned about a possible response by the terror group:

“Hezbollah is sorely mistaken if it thinks it can solve the crisis in Lebanon by creating a crisis with Israel.”

Benjamin Netanyahu also repeated his message about:

“Israel’s willingness to send humanitarian aid, which must be delivered directly to the population.”

In the wake of the disaster, some observers hope that it will mark a turning point in Lebanon’s politics. It has revitalised Lebanese protesters who have been trying to remove the whole political class since October 2019.

Tens of thousands of Lebanese have demonstrated heightened distrust and anger at their incompetent government. Some even set up mock hangman’s nooses for the country’s president and the leader of Hezbollah – demonstrating that the ordinary people know who is responsible for this disaster.

Others may not be so hopeful, given the remarkable tenacity that is demonstrated around the world by corrupt people in positions of power.