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Lebanon ratifies broad powers to the armed forces


Gent walks past the rubble of destroyed buildings in a neighborhood near the site of last week’s explosion that destroyed the port of Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020.


The Lebanese Parliament on Thursday ratified the state of emergency in Beirut, with wide powers for the armed forces in the face of the growing wave of anger in the population and political uncertainty, in its first session after the great explosion that devastated part of the capital La last week.

The explosion that killed more than 170 people and injured another 6,000 altered the face of the city and forced the government to resign.

Before resigning, the government declared a state of emergency and gave the armed forces the power to declare curfews, ban public gatherings, censor the press, and prosecute civilians accused of violating security regulations before military courts.

Civil rights groups and other critics say the civilian government had already expanded its powers due to the coronavirus pandemic. They highlighted the military crackdown on protests last week and the fear that those powers will be used to quell dissent.

The state of emergency required parliamentary ratification.

Parliament is sitting outside its headquarters to allow social distancing and move away from the furious protests that demand the resignation of all politicians. More demonstrations were expected in the next few hours.

After a minute of silence in memory of those killed in the explosion, the session addressed the resignation of a dozen legislators in protest of the way the government handled the August 4 explosion. The bloc of an important Christian party boycotted the session.

The cause of the fire that detonated almost 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in the port is still unknown, but documents released after the explosion reveal that the highest government officials and security forces knew of the existence of these chemicals. .

General outrage and protests forced the government to resign on Monday. The cabinet remains in office on an interim basis.