Lebanese leaders agreed a new government led by Sunni Muslim tycoon Najib Mikati on Friday after a year of feuding over cabinet seats that has exacerbated a devastating economic collapse, opening the way to a resumption of talks with the IMF. The breakthrough followed a flurry of contacts from France which has led efforts to get Lebanon’s fractious leaders to agree a cabinet and begin reforms since last year’s catastrophic Beirut port explosion.
At least 20 people were killed and 79 injured in a fuel tank explosion in the Akkar region in northern Lebanon, the Lebanese Red Cross said on its Twitter account early on Sunday. Military and security sources said that the Lebanese army had seized a hidden fuel storage tank in the town of Altalil and was in the midst of handing out gasoline to residents when the explosion took place.
Tear gas engulfed central Beirut as security forces chased protesters near Lebanon’s parliament on Sunday in a second night of street clashes that wounded dozens of people. The protests erupted from anger at a political elite that has overseen decades of corruption and steered the country toward its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
Parliamentary results released on Monday indicate Hezbollah, the Shi’a Islamist political party and militant group, and its political allies have expanded their share of seats in Lebanon’s parliament, making them the dominant force in the Lebanese legislature. Sunni Prime Minister Saad Hariri whose Western-backed Future Movement lost a third of its seats is expected to be asked to form a new unity government.
Lebanon held its first parliamentary election in nine years on Sunday and fewer than half of the country’s registered voters cast their ballots. The election hosted 583 total candidates competing for 128 seats in parliament. Many who did not vote believed the election was predetermined. The results are expected to be announced on Monday while unofficial results showed Hezbollah and its political allies won just over half the seats.
Lebanon has requested the arrest of the foreign owner and captain of the ship which brought material which blew up at Beirut port causing devastation. The judge leading the probe into the blast has asked international police organization Interpol to detain the two men without publicly identifying them. Some 190 people were killed when the improperly stored ammonium nitrate cargo exploded on 4 August.
A pulsing signal was detected Thursday from under the rubble of a Beirut building that collapsed during the horrific port explosion in the Lebanese capital last month, raising hopes there may be a survivor still buried there. The effort unfolded after a sniffer dog belonging to the Chilean search and rescue team first detected something as the team was going through Gemmayzeh Street in Beirut and rushed toward the rubble of a building.
Lebanon’s president said an investigation into the Beirut port warehouse explosion was looking at whether it was the result of external interference, in addition to simple negligence or an accident, his office said on Friday. “The cause has not been determined yet. There is a possibility of external interference through a rocket or bomb or other act,” President Michel Aoun said in comments carried by local media and confirmed by his office.
The number of dead in Beirut’s huge explosion has risen to at least 135, with around 5,000 injured and tens of people still missing. The rise was announced by health minister Hamad Hassan as rescuers continued a desperate search for survivors. The cabinet has ordered port officials involved in storing or guarding ammonium nitrate since 2014 to be put under house arrest.
Lebanese rescue workers dug through the mangled wreckage of buildings on Wednesday looking for survivors after a massive warehouse explosion sent a devastating blast wave across Beirut, killing at least 100 people and injuring nearly 4,000. It sent a mushroom cloud into the sky and rattled windows on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, about 100 miles (160 km) away. The blast was the most powerful ever to rip through Beirut.