Home / Lebanon / Lebanese ministers resign as Maronite church and nation is up in arms – UPDATE

Lebanese ministers resign as Maronite church and nation is up in arms – UPDATE

Lebanon’s Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad announced on Sunday her resignation, citing the failure of the government to carry out reforms and the catastrophic explosion that rocked Beirut on Tuesday.

UPDATES

Lebanon’s Christian Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai called on the cabinet on Sunday to resign if it cannot “change the way it governs” the country and help it to recover from Tuesday’s catastrophic explosion.

UPDATES

Some Lebanese called on Sunday for a sustained uprising to topple their leaders amid public fury over this week’s devastating explosion in Beirut, and the country’s top Christian Maronite cleric said the cabinet should resign.

Protesters have called on the government to quit over what they say was negligence that led to Tuesday’s explosion. Anger boiled over into violence scenes in central Beirut on Saturday.

Christian Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai said the cabinet should resign if it cannot “change the way it governs”.

“The resignation of an MP or a minister is not enough (..) the whole government should resign if it is unable to help the country recover,” he said in his Sunday sermon.

Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad said she was resigning on Sunday, citing the explosion and the failure of the government to carry out reforms.

Dozens of people were injured in Saturday’s protests, the biggest since October when thousands of people took to the streets in protests against corruption, bad governance and mismanagement.

About 10,000 people gathered at Martyrs’ Square, which was transformed into a battle zone in the evening between police and protesters who tried to break down a barrier along a road leading to parliament. Some demonstrators stormed government ministries and the Association of Lebanese Banks.

Demonstrators defied dozens of teargas canisters fired at them and hurled stones and firecrackers at riot police, some of whom were carried away to ambulances. One policeman was killed.

The Red Cross said it had treated 117 people for injuries on the scene on Saturday while another 55 were taken to hospital.

Soldiers in vehicles mounted with machineguns were stationed beside Martyrs’ Square on Sunday.

“People should sleep in the streets and demonstrate against the government until it falls,” said lawyer Maya Habli, as she surveyed the demolished port where the blast erupted.

The explosion killed 158 people and injured more than 6,000, destroying parts of the city and compounding months of political and economic meltdown. Twenty-one people were still reported as missing.

The prime minister and presidency have said 2,750 tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, which is used in making fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years without safety measures at the port warehouse.

The government has said it will hold those responsible to account.

GUTTED NEIGHBOURHOODS

French President Emmanuel Macron was hosting U.S. President Donald Trump and other political leaders on Sunday for a U.N.-endorsed donors’ conference by video to raise emergency relief for Lebanon.

The explosion hit a city reeling from economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic. For many it was a dreadful reminder of the 1975-1990 civil war that tore the nation apart and destroyed swathes of Beirut, much of which has since been rebuilt.

“I worked in Kuwait for 15 years in sanitation to save money and build a gift shop in Lebanon and it was destroyed by the explosion,” said Maroun Shehadi.

“Nothing will change until our leaders just leave.”

The explosion gutted entire neighbourhoods.

“Look at this,” said Eli Yazbak, the manager of a fashion company whose 10-story headquarters was destroyed in the blast.

“This has set us back 50 years. We face crisis after crisis in Lebanon. It’s time for the government to step down and let capable people run the country.”

UPDATES

Lebanese protesters hurled rocks at security forces blocking a road near parliament on Sunday in a second day of anti-government demonstrations after last week’s devastating explosion in Beirut.

Fire broke out at the entrance to Parliament Square as protesters tried to break into a cordoned-off area, Lebanese TV footage showed.

Tuesday’s blast of ammonium nitrate killed 158 people and injured more than 6,000, compounding months of political and economic collapse and prompting angry calls for the government to quit.

Riot police wearing body armour and carrying batons clashed with demonstrators in chaotic scenes in central Beirut on Sunday.

Thousands of demonstrators were converging on Parliament Square and nearby Martyrs’ Square, a Reuters correspondent said.

“We want to destroy and kill the government,” said Nissan Ghrawi, a 19-year-old unemployed demonstrator. “They gave us no jobs or rights.”

The country’s top Christian Maronite cleric, Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai, said the cabinet should resign as it cannot “change the way it governs”.

“The resignation of an MP or a minister is not enough … the whole government should resign as it is unable to help the country recover,” he said in his Sunday sermon.

Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad said she was resigning on Sunday, citing the explosion and the failure of the government to carry out reforms.

Anger boiled over into violent scenes in central Beirut on Saturday. Those protests were the biggest since October when thousands of people took to the streets to demand an end to corruption, bad governance and mismanagement.

About 10,000 people gathered at Martyrs’ Square, which was transformed into a battle zone in the evening between police and protesters who tried to break down a barrier along a road leading to parliament. Some demonstrators stormed government ministries and the Association of Lebanese Banks.

One policeman was killed and the Red Cross said more than 170 people were injured in clashes.

‘CHANGE THE GOVERNMENT’

“The police fired at me. But that won’t stop us from demonstrating until we change the government from top to bottom,” Younis Flayti, 55, a retired army officer, said on Sunday.

Nearby, mechanic Sabir Jamali sat beside a noose attached to a wooden frame in Martyrs’ Square, intended as a symbolic warning to Lebanese leaders to resign or face hanging.

“Every leader who oppresses us should be hanged,” he said, adding he will protest again.

Lawyer Maya Habli surveyed the demolished port.

“People should sleep in the streets and demonstrate against the government until it falls,” she said.

The prime minister and presidency have said 2,750 tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, which is used in making fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years without safety measures at the port warehouse.

The government has said it will hold those responsible to account.

World powers agreed at an emergency donor conference on Sunday to provide “major resources” to help Beirut recover, pledging not to fail Lebanon’s people.

Some 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in making fertilisers and bombs, exploded on Tuesday, hitting a city already reeling from the economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic.

For many it was a dreadful reminder of the 1975-1990 civil war that tore the nation apart and destroyed swathes of Beirut, much of which has since been rebuilt.

“I worked in Kuwait for 15 years in sanitation to save money and build a gift shop in Lebanon and it was destroyed by the explosion,” said Maroun Shehadi.

“Nothing will change until our leaders just leave.”

UPDATE

Lebanese Justice Minister Marie Claude Najm said in a statement on Monday she had presented her resignation from the government, citing the catastrophic explosion at the port of Beirut.

UPDATE

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab will soon announce his government’s resignation, the health minister told Reuters on Monday after a massive port explosion that devastated the capital piled pressure on the cabinet.

Diab was set to deliver an address to the nation at 7:30 p.m. local time, his office said.

Source: Reuters

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