Explosions in Beirut: Lebanese President rejects any international investigation
A Lebanese soldier at the scene of the double explosion that devastated Beirut. Thibault Camus / Pool via REUTERS
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After the double explosion that ravaged Beirut, investigations are actively continuing with the approach of the end of the five-day deadline granted by the Lebanese authorities to the investigators to present their conclusions. President Michel Aoun said that no leads were ruled out. According to the Ministry of Health, more than 60 people are still missing. The latest death toll stands at 154 dead, 25 of which have not yet been identified.
Nineteen people are currently behind bars in Lebanon , as part of the investigation into the double explosion that ravaged Beirut. Among them, the port manager, as well as port and customs officials. They are questioned under the supervision of the Lebanese army military police.
President of the Republic Michel Aoun said during a discussion with journalists that investigators did not rule out any leads, including that of an " external intervention " by means of a " missile or a bomb ". He is the first Lebanese leader to raise such a hypothesis. The thesis favored until now was that of the accidental explosion of 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate stored near a fireworks stockpile, recalls our correspondent in Beirut, Paul Khalifeh . The spark which served as a detonator was allegedly caused by welding work on a door.
Nasrallah denies existence of Hezbollah weapons depot in port
The Lebanese head of state announced that he had asked his French counterpart for satellite images of the site of the explosion. If France abstains from providing them, Lebanon will request them from another State. Michel Aoun, on the other hand, ruled out any international investigation, as claimed by Emmanuel Macron during his trip to the Lebanese capital on Thursday, because " it would dilute the truth ".
For his part, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah " categorically denied " in a televised address on Friday that his organization had an " arms warehouse " in the port of Beirut: " neither arms warehouse, nor missile warehouse (. ..) neither a bomb, nor a bullet, nor nitrate ”of ammonium, he hammered, thus contradicting assertions circulating in the media and on social networks.
Warning from the President of the Bar
While the first conclusions of the investigation must be made public this Saturday, Melhem Khalaf, the president of the Beirut Bar Association warns that he will not accept that the responsibilities are covered. “ The investigation must be serious, independent and be transparent. We will not accept in any case that this voice of accountability is not heard, ”he warns, at the microphone of our special envoy, Pierre Olivier .
Even though the five-day deadline will probably not yet shed any light on those responsible for this disaster, Melhem Khalaf is already looking at some members of the political class. " Is there no minister who knew about it ?" You have to call all these people. If ever the investigation was not carried out in a serious manner, the President of the Bar warns that Lebanon could then be considered as a failed state, incapable of fulfilling its sovereign functions.
A context of social and political tensions
Tuesday's double explosion, the most devastating ever in Lebanon, has fueled the anger of a population mobilized against the country's leaders since autumn 2019. It was illustrated in the night from Thursday to Friday not far from Parliament. by violent clashes between the police and demonstrators demanding the resignation of the government. A call to protest was launched for Saturday afternoon at the same location, where a gallows was symbolically installed before being removed.
The population's rejection of politicians is so strong that young volunteers who help residents clear the rubble booed and chased away the Minister of Education who had come to lend them a hand.
Big event scheduled for Sunday
On social networks, calls for a large anti-government rally have been circulating for several days, reports our special envoy, Pierre Olivier . This mobilization should take place this Saturday at Place des Martyrs, a few hundred meters from the site of the explosion and the gigantic crater it formed in the port. The meeting was fixed at around 5 pm local time (2 pm UT), with the theme “ Hang them ”, in reference to those responsible for the disaster and to the political class as a whole. Several messages on social networks call for the erection of gallows.
Will this murderous explosion revive a real movement of protest and mobilization against the ruling class? This will be the whole stake of this new event. Last October, this outburst of anger sparked violent protests in Beirut.
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- Michel Aoun
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