On 4 August 2020, a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored at the Port of Beirut in the capital city of Lebanon exploded, causing at least 218 deaths, 7,000 injuries, and US$15 billion in property damage, and leaving an estimated 300,000 people homeless. A cargo of 2,750 tonnes of the substance (equivalent to around 1.1 kilotons of TNT) had been stored in a warehouse without proper safety measures for the previous six years, after having been confiscated by the Lebanese authorities from the abandoned ship MV Rhosus. The explosion was preceded by a fire in the same warehouse, but as of September 2021, the exact cause of the detonation is still under investigation.
The blast shook the whole country of Lebanon. It was felt in Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Israel as well as parts of Europe, and was heard in Cyprus, more than 240 km (150 mi) away. It was detected by the United States Geological Survey as a seismic event of magnitude 3.3, and is considered one of the most powerful artificial non-nuclear explosions in history.
The Lebanese government declared a two-week state of emergency in response to the disaster. In its aftermath, protests erupted across Lebanon against the government for their failure to prevent the disaster, joining a larger series of protests which have been taking place across the country since 2019.
At least six people have been killed and 32 others injured by gunfire in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.
It began during a protest by the Shia Muslim groups Hezbollah and Amal against the judge investigating last year’s huge blast at the city’s port.
They said Christian snipers from the Lebanese Forces (LF) faction fired at the crowd to drag Lebanon into strife – a claim denied by the LF.
Huge tension surrounds the probe into the port explosion that killed 219.
Hezbollah and its allies claim the judge is biased, but the victims’ families support his work.
No-one has yet been held accountable for the August 2020 disaster, in which swathes of the city were devastated.
In response to Thursday’s shooting, some of Lebanon’s worst violence in years, Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced a day of mourning on Friday.
Meanwhile, President Michel Aoun said: “We will not allow anyone to take the country hostage to their own interests.”