A large group of protesters from Lebanon gathered at the US embassy in Beirut in response to the massive blast at a Gaza City hospital on Tuesday evening and set fire before military members unleashed tear gas and smoke to push them back. The protests in the Middle East come after a massive blast at a hospital in Gaza, which Hamas claims killed at least 500 people.
Iran-backed Hezbollah, which was involved in a conflict with Israel in 2006, issued a call for a day of protest in Beirut on Tuesday in reaction to the attack. The protests erupted hours ahead of President Joe Biden's arrival in neighboring Israel to show support for the Jewish state in its conflict with the terrorist group Hamas.
Late into Tuesday night, thousands of Lebanese protesters, with some waving Palestinian flags, assembled outside the US embassy in reaction to the incident.
Video footage captured a protester climbing a barb-wire-topped fence to replace a US flag with a Palestinian one.
A fire was also near the complex. Later, video footage showed the military using gas to disperse the demonstrators and move them away.
It's unclear whether the protesters are targeting the old embassy in Lebanon or the new one, which began construction in April 2017. The new embassy is a 43-acre compound that has stirred controversy within the country.
Initially described as a $1 billion project in a press release, as reported by The Independent, critics voiced concerns about both the cost and the large size of the embassy, especially given the relatively low number of Americans traveling to Lebanon.
Dorothy Shea, the United States Ambassador to Lebanon, previously held the position of political officer at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, where she was involved in the Israeli-Palestine peace process. She was appointed to her current role in 2020 by then-president Donald Trump.
Dorothy Shea is currently leading the embassy, which is now under siege following the Gaza blast. Israel's military has denied responsibility for the explosion and proposed that the hospital was struck by a failed rocket launch, possibly from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad military group based in the enclave.
In another part of Beirut, protesters gathered at the French embassy.
These simultaneous demonstrations occurred mere hours after Hezbollah, a terror group based in Lebanon, urged for "a day of unprecedented anger" in Beirut in response to the massive blast at the Gaza medical center.
Blame Game Begins
Islamic Jihad has denied any involvement of its rockets in the hospital blast. The Hamas-led Health Ministry has claimed Israel was responsible for the hospital blast, while the Israel Defense Forces attributed the devastating incident to a failed rocket by Hamas.
This strike stands as the most lethal single event during Israel's conflict with Hamas, which started after Hamas launched an attack on Israel on October 7, resulting in the deaths of at least 1,400 people.
Biden's scheduled visit to Tel Aviv initially included a visit to Amman, Jordan as well. However, the Jordanian government called off this leg of the trip following the attack in Gaza City.
"After consulting with King Abdullah II of Jordan and in light of the days of mourning announced by President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, President Biden will postpone his travel to Jordan and the planned meeting with these two leaders and President Sisi of Egypt," the White House said in a statement.
"The president sent his deepest condolences for the innocent lives lost in the hospital explosion in Gaza and wished a speedy recovery to the wounded. He looks forward to consulting in person with these leaders soon, and agreed to remain regularly and directly engaged with each of them over the coming days."
Earlier on Monday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued evacuation orders for residents of 28 communities located near the Lebanese border.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah has not yet said clearly whether it would go to war with Israel, although both countries have engaged in multiple attacks on each other since the Israel-Hamas conflict began last week.
The World Health Organization reported on Monday that it has dispatched two shipments of medical supplies to Beirut in anticipation of a potential escalation along the Lebanon-Israel border.