`Negligence or missile attack`: Lebanese President on Beirut explosion

Yolanda Curtis
August 8, 2020

Sixteen staff members at Beirut's port, the site of a massive explosion, have been detained over the deadly blast that devastated large parts of the city, a military prosecutor said Thursday.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu are expected to meet Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Hassan Diab, the office of the vice president said on August 7.

In his snap visit on Thursday, Macron stressed the need for an worldwide investigation after meeting Lebanese politicians, including representatives of the powerful Shiite Hezbollah movement, whose leader Hasan Nasrallah was scheduled to speak later on Friday.

Lebanon's investigation has so far led to at least 21 arrests, including Beirut port's general manager Hassan Koraytem, along with other customs officials and port engineers. Officials have estimated losses at $US10 billion to $US15 billion.

Damaged hospitals, already strained by the coronavirus pandemic, are still struggling to deal with the wounded.

France, which has close ties to its former colony, has also sent a team of 22 investigators to help probe the blast.

In an interview with The Associated Press, he predicted that "the death toll will grow" as more bodies are found.

French police could later question witnesses or suspects, said Eric Berot, chief of a unit involved in the investigation.

People remove debris from a house damaged by Tuesday's explosion in the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020.

"The zone is enormous".

The U.N. human rights office is calling for an independent investigation, insisting "victims' calls for accountability must be heard". "It's a titanic job". "Nothing like that has been received, however", United Nations spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters.

During a televised speech, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the explosion was an "exceptional event" requiring unity and calm, which also presented an opportunity for Lebanon to come out of its ongoing political and economic crisis.

Lebanon's leadership was already deeply unpopular, with a wave of mass protests that erupted in October a year ago only abating in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Colville urged Lebanese leaders to "overcome political stalemates and address the grievances of the population".

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