For the third week, Lebanon is recovering from an explosion in the Beirut port, which killed more than 200 people, maimed and stripped tens of thousands of homes. The Lebanese finally ran out of patience - they went out to protests. The last straw was the next irresponsibility of officials, who were not very worried about the almost three thousand tons of ammonium nitrate that had been lying in one of the port's hangars for six years.
At such a difficult time, we need to be in solidarity with all of Lebanon, and especially the people affected by the explosion. But not only: mass protests erupted against the backdrop of a long-term economic crisis (in addition, Lebanon now still has to cover multibillion-dollar losses from the explosion), the peak rates of coronavirus infection, the domination of the Iranian radical Hezbollah party, which virtually controls every political decision and every aspect life of Lebanon. On August 10, the country's government resigned in full force. Is there a way out of the crises - political and economic, in which the country is stuck?
The crisis deepens
“We are faced with an earthquake that struck our entire country - with all possible humanitarian, social, economic and national consequences. Our first task is to eliminate them, in parallel with the operational investigation. [...] Now we are standing side by side with people to fight together for change, ”said Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, he blamed the“ chronic corruption ”that permeates the country's political life, and announced about the resignation of his government.
This happened against the backdrop of massive protests that engulfed Lebanon a few days after the explosion at the port. This is the second time in the past year that mass actions break out there and suddenly cause the government to resign. More than 700 people were injured in clashes with police.
The port bombing triggered the fight for change. But in fact, it all started earlier. Over the past few years, the country has welcomed 1.5 million refugees from war-torn Syria, experienced an electricity crisis due to an abandoned energy infrastructure, and an astounding currency devaluation. The middle class is shrinking sharply, and the poverty rate from 45% in 2019 could rise to a record 75% by the end of this year, as the World Bank projections show.
The country has serious systemic health problems, in which there is now a new challenge - record rates of coronavirus infected every day and a lack of hospitals to accommodate them. Now, in addition, the losses from the explosion, which the authorities have estimated at $ 3-5 million, cannot be covered on their own for Lebanon.
There was a lot of talk in the world about the involvement of Hezbollah in the tragedy 15 years ago - the assassination of ex-Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and more than 20 people with him in the winter of 2005. Then, next to the prime minister's motorcade, another car exploded - the bomb was detonated using a mobile phone that belonged to one of the suspects. The court determined that he was connected with Hezbollah and, like three other suspects, was tried in absentia. But on August 18, 2020, a special tribunal in The Hague announced that the investigation had found no evidence of the involvement of the leaders of Hezbollah and Syria in the murder of Hariri. After the death of the head of government in Lebanon, large-scale protests at that time began, which ended the Syrian rule in the country.
But not everyone agrees with the court's decision: Marwan Hamade, who miraculously survived the explosion of the prime minister's motorcade on the Associated Press camera, said: “There should be a clear message for everyone: that this organization, both in Lebanon and anywhere in the Middle East, uses political assassinations, to take control of entire countries. "
Now, the bombing in Lebanon on August 4 again saw the likely trail of Hezbollah: probably the organization wanted to divert attention from the trial in the Hariri case. The trial was scheduled for August 7, but it was postponed "out of respect for the countless victims of the devastating explosion" in Beirut. After such accusations, the leader of Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, said that the organization did not store ammunition in the hangars of the Beirut port - at first one of the versions said that this was how the fire happened. Explosion investigation continues.
Financial assistance from international organizations (which is still in short supply) - like the willingness of many countries to provide it - goes on purpose to victims, and not to the government, which then distributes it at its discretion. In Beirut, the protests have subsided so far, because all the attention of residents of the capital now is primarily on the restoration of their homes.