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Thousands in Beirut take to the streets for a "day of judgment" after deadly blasts

Beirut residents speak out after explosion
Beirut residents speak out after explosion 02:37

Several thousand people took to the streets in Beirut for what is being called a "day of judgment" for Lebanon's leaders to take responsibility for the massive explosions on Tuesday that killed at least 158 people. Lebanon's Red Cross said more than 100 people were injured in Saturday's demonstrations and BBC News reported that dozens entered a foreign ministry.

Riot police fired tear gas on demonstrators who tried to break through the barriers in front of the Parliament building and there were reports of shots fired. A Lebanese police spokesman told Reuters that a policeman died in the clashes.

The demonstrations are being held after the Lebanese government on Friday refused to allow for an independent international investigation into the cause of the explosion. The Lebanese government has vowed to find those responsible for the blast, which they say was caused by 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate that was seized over six years ago but never destroyed.

The massive explosion was so powerful it left a smoking crater stretching more than 700 feet and registered as a 3.3-magnitude earthquake. There are dozens still missing and the number of people injured rose to 6,000 on Saturday, the Lebanese government said. More than 300,000 people have been left homeless.

Protests called for in central Beirut days after devastating explosion
Rescuers assist demonstrators during a protest, following Tuesday's blast, in Beirut, Lebanon, on Saturday, August 8, 2020. THAIER AL-SUDANI / REUTERS

Protesters in Beirut's Martyrs' Square hung mock gallows to demonstrate what they wanted to do with politicians. Several dozen entered the foreign ministry and called for all ministries to be occupied as they chanted anti-government slogans and burned a portrait of President Michel Aoun.

"The government is doing nothing," one protester told CBS News' Imtiaz Tyab. "We are doing everything. Help us!"

The U.S. embassy in Beirut on Saturday tweeted their support for the protesters. "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," the embassy posted.

On Saturday, Lebanon's Prime Minister Hassan Diab said he will introduce a draft bill proposing early elections.

"We cannot get out of this crisis without early parliamentary elections," he said in a statement.

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