Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Cabinet Resign in Aftermath of Beirut Explosion

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced his resignation Monday, hours after his Cabinet stepped down in the wake of last week’s deadly explosion in Beirut.

“Today I announce the resignation of this government,” Diab said in a news conference. “May God protect Lebanon.”

The government’s resignation comes in the face of mounting backlash after an explosion at the capital’s port left at least 200 people dead, 6,000 injured, and 300,000 homeless.

Violent protests called for top officials to “resign or hang,” NPR reported, after it was announced that the blast had been caused by carelessness in storing 2,750 tons of the dangerous material ammonium nitrate at the port, which officials had known about for years. The explosion has caused an estimated $10 billion to $15 billion in economic losses.

“We are facing an earthquake that struck the country, with all its humanitarian, social, economic and national repercussions,” Diab, who had only been in his role since January, said.

He said he is taking “a step back” so he can stand with the people “and fight the battle for change alongside them.”

Earlier Monday Lebanese health minister Hamad Hassan told reporters that the prime minister would “hand over the resignation in the name of all the ministers,” explaining that, “the whole government resigned.”

Protestors have also called for President Michel Aoun to resign, Reuters reported. Lebanon’s political system, which is designed to share power between the country’s varying groups, mandates that the presidency must be held by a Christian, the prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament must be a Shiite Muslim.

Around 20 people have been detained in relation to the explosion, including the head of Lebanon’s customs department and his predecessor, as well as the head of the port. Dozens more have been questioned, including two former Cabinet ministers, according to government officials.

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