The Lebanese cabinet approved the extension of the state of emergency (SoE) currently in place in Beirut through until August 21, following the Port of Beirut explosion on August 4 and widespread protests that have occurred since. The security of the city of Beirut has been handed over to the military, and the SoE, approved on Thursday, August 13, reportedly grants the army powers to curb free speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press, as well as to enter the homes and arrest those deemed a security threat. The SoE is in place as recovery operations from the port explosion are ongoing, and as protests in Beirut have intensified following the explosion. Thousands have participated in demonstrations in recent days, whereby dozens have been injured and a policeman was killed.
Further protests and clashes with security forces are possible in Beirut in the immediate term, along with a heightened security presence. Disruptions are to be expected as recovery operations are carried out across Beirut.
An explosion that occurred in the Port of Beirut on August 4 killed at least 157 people, injured 5000 others, and caused billions of Lebanese Pounds in damages. The blast is believed to have been caused by 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which had been unsafely stored in the area. A state of emergency was initially declared on August 5, and 20 officials responsible for the operation of the port have so far been placed under arrest.
Allegations of mismanagement regarding the substance's storage come during sustained unrest since October 2019 over corruption and economic hardship within the country whereby protesters have called for reforms to the governance of Lebanon.
Those in Beirut, and across Lebanon, are advised to monitor developments, avoid all protests as a precaution, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities.
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