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International Donors Pledge Aid For Lebanon As Protests Continue

Demonstrators are seen through the smoke during a protest following Tuesday's blast, in Beirut, Lebanon August 9, 2020.

Angry demonstrations erupted on the streets of Beirut for a second day as an international aid summit on August 9 raised funds to help Lebanon recover from a massive explosion that devastated the capital.

The United Nations estimates Lebanon needs approximately $117 million in emergency aid in the aftermath of the August 4 port explosion, which killed more than 160 people, injured thousands, and left some 300,000 residents homeless.

French President Emmanuel Macron and the United Nations co-hosted the international video aid conference, with dozens of countries announcing aid packages.

A communique from the summit did not give a final pledge amount, but Macron's office said a total of $298 millon had been mobilized.

The statement said countries committed to provide "major resources" to help Lebanon recover from the disaster that destroyed swaths of the capital.

World leaders said the assistance will be "directly delivered to the Lebanese population, with utmost efficiency and transparency" due to concern about endemic government corruption.

They also offered to support an "impartial, credible, and independent inquiry" into the blast as many Lebanese lose faith in their government.

Lebanese officials estimate the blast -- which is believed to have been caused by the explosion of a stockpile of 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate that was stored for years in unsafe conditions at the port -- caused up to $15 billion in damage. That sum amounts to about one-quarter of the country's gross domestic product.

Even before the explosion, Lebanon’s debt-burdened economy was already facing financial collapse, electricity blackouts, millions of Syrian refugees, and failing services all exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The disaster has quickly shifted from grief to anger boiling over in the streets of Lebanon over what protesters say is the latest glaring example of the political elites’ mismanagement and negligence.

Some Lebanese are calling for sustained protests to topple the government and usher in an entirely new system to govern a country run by entrenched elites and burdened by sectarian quotas.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab has said he would put forward a bill to hold early parliamentary elections. Two government ministers have also resigned amid the political fallout of the blast and months of economic crisis, saying the government had failed to reform.

Thousands of demonstrators were in downtown Beirut on August 9, clashing with riot police near Parliament Square and nearby Martyrs' Square.

Protesters stormed government ministries in Beirut and trashed the offices of the headquarters of the banking association on August 8. A police officer was killed during clashes that left at least 238 injured.

The protests are the largest since October when thousands of Lebanese took the streets for weeks against corruption, bad governance, and mismanagement.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters