Lebanese government resigns as fury over deadly explosion deepens political crisis

Lebanon’s government resigned Monday as the fallout from last week’s deadly explosion deepened a political crisis in the country’s blast-ravaged capital.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab said he would resign alongside all of his ministers.

“We will back down and stand with the people. We need to open the door for the people,” he said in an address to the nation.

The move comes after enraged protesters and world leaders alike demanded political reform following the Aug. 4 blast that killed almost 160 people and injured thousands more.

Protesters took to the streets of Beirut again Sunday with video showing what appeared to be tear gas canisters being fired at demonstrators who had congregated in a street near the parliament.

Last week’s blast, which sent a mushroom-like cloud into the sky above Beirut’s port, dealt a blow to a country already on its knees.

Nearly a week since the devastating explosion, public anger shows no signs of abating.

The blast was triggered when a warehouse fire ignited hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate, according to Diab.

It sent a shock wave that scarred the coastline of Beirut, destroying hundreds of buildings and leaving many homeless.

The protesters blame the ruling elite for chronic mismanagement and corruption that is believed to be behind the explosion and the country’s broader issues.

“You literally blew us up. We have nothing left to lose,” a group of protesters screamed at a demonstration on Saturday.

Image: Protesters in Beirut
Protesters throw back the tear gas canisters Internal Security Forces fired from behind a wall at during a protest near the parliament in Beirut on Sunday. Daniel Carde / Getty Images

The scenes of public fury came as world leaders pledged millions in emergency aid to the country’s explosion-ravaged capital in a teleconference co-organized by France and the United Nations.

President Donald Trump was among the participants, as well as leaders from Gulf Arab states, China and the European Union.

“The international community, Lebanon’s closest friends and partners, will not let Lebanese people down,” the chair of the conference said in a concluding statement on Sunday, according to the French mission to the U.N.

The participants agreed to help meet the immediate needs of Beirut and the Lebanese people through emergency assistance programs and agreed it would be “directly delivered to the Lebanese population.”

They warned that any support of the economic and financial recovery of the country would be contingent on Lebanese authorities committing to economic and political reforms demanded by the Lebanese people, according to the statement.

The explosion rubbed salt into those old wounds, and created new ones.

The government’s resignation, however, is not a panacea for Lebanon’s problems.

The country is facing its worst economic crisis in its modern history and is afflicted by skyrocketing unemployment, rising prices and a plummeting Lebanese pound. Hunger is spreading throughout the country of 6.8 million people.

Protesters have been fighting for change since October last year when the government lit a match by announcing new tax measures, enraging Lebanese citizens whose frustration with the government had in many cases been mounting for years.

Hundreds of thousands took to the streets then, demonstrating against what they see as endemic corruption among the Lebanese political class who protesters say reap the benefits of their office while ordinary citizens struggle to make ends meet.

On Oct. 29, less than two weeks after the protests broke out, Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned saying he had hit a “dead end.”

The new government formed in January is dominated by the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and its allies.

The government’s resignation could signify a blow for the militant group that is officially designated a terrorist organization by the United States.

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