Lebanon’s government announces a lockdown as COVID-19 cases rise, the investigation into the explosion is deemed “complex,” and the ICC will issue its verdict on the Rafic Hariri assassination.
Rabat – The government of Lebanon, embroiled in political unrest, has announced a new lockdown after reporting a significant rise in COVID-19 cases. The rise in infections comes amid chaos following the Beirut explosion that claimed 180 lives and left 6,000 injured. Parliament has shrugged off calls for it to step down, with President Michel Aoun saying the resignation of parliament would be “impossible.”
Authorities in Lebanon announced the lockdown after reporting 439 new COVID-19 cases and six deaths, with local medical authorities fearing recent popular unrest and the Beirut tragedy led to rising infections. The August 4 explosion saw already-crowded hospitals overflow with wounded citizens. Local officials fear there are no intensive care beds available for those suffering from complications from the new infections.
Hamad Hasan, the caretaker minister of public health, feared that the true number of new infections could be much higher. He urged citizens across the country to wear masks as medical officials fear the virus will have spread outside of the major urban centers.
Amid unrest, Lebanon’s people may receive the lockdown measures with suspicion. Measures ban public gatherings that include large-scale anti-government protests.
‘Complex’ blast probe
The internal government investigation into the August 4 explosion is “complex” and will take time to conclude, President Michel Aoun told French television station BFMTV in an interview that aired Saturday. “We had the determination to reach conclusions quickly, but we found out that the issues are very complex and require time,” Aoun said.
News reporting has revealed senior Lebanese officials were informed about the dangerous cargo stored in Beirut’s port years ahead of the calamitous explosion.
A team of FBI investigators arrived in Beirut on Sunday, but Lebanese government officials and Hezbollah are already discrediting international efforts to conduct a probe on the blast.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague is preparing its verdict on the case of the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. Hariri died when a bomb exploded near his motorcade, which led to accusations across Lebanon’s political divide.
It appears likely the ICC’s Special Tribunal For Lebanon will conclude Hezbollah was responsible for the attack, based on its earlier questioning of suspects. The trial, which aims at providing transparency on the contentious event, is likely to increase sectarian unrest in the country.
The ICC trial is not universally recognized by Lebanese society and many fear that the eventual verdict could create more friction in society, instead of finally laying to rest 15 years of speculation regarding the assassination.
With Lebanon facing a new lockdown, continued political unrest, and a contentious conclusion to the ICC trial, the country is likely in for a tumultuous week.