Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced his government's resignation following a cabinet meeting in which all the lawmakers reportedly tendered their resignations over the devastating explosion in the capital.

An image grab obtained from Lebanon's public television network Tele Liban on August 10, 2020 shows Prime Minister Hassan Diab announcing his government's resignation amid popular outrage over the deadly Beirut port explosion.
An image grab obtained from Lebanon's public television network Tele Liban on August 10, 2020 shows Prime Minister Hassan Diab announcing his government's resignation amid popular outrage over the deadly Beirut port explosion. (AFP)

Lebanon's prime minister has stepped down from his job in the wake of the Beirut port explosion last week that triggered public fury and mass protests.

In a brief televised speech, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said on Monday that he is taking ‚"a step back‚" so he can stand with the people‚ "and fight the battle for change alongside them."

He said: "I declare today the resignation of this government. May God protect Lebanon," repeating the last phrase three times.

A brief while earlier, Diab's Cabinet resigned. 

Diab blamed corrupt politicians who preceded him for the "earthquake" that has hit Lebanon.

"They (political class) should have been ashamed of themselves because their corruption is what has led to this disaster that had been hidden for seven years," he added.

President Michel Aoun accepted the resignation of the government and asked it to stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new cabinet is formed.

Public anger

The blast at the port of Beirut on August 4 brought a new wave of public outrage at the government and Lebanon’s long-entrenched ruling class after initial findings pointed officials knew the city was sitting on a ticking timebomb. 

Protests were planned outside the government headquarters to coincide with the Cabinet meeting on Monday after large demonstrations over the weekend turned into clashes with security forces firing tear gas at protesters.

More than 200 people died and some 6,000 others were wounded in the catastrophe.

It is unsure whether the government's dissolution will give the protesters the clean slate they demand as it is still unclear how many of the current cabinet members are set to assume caretaker roles.

Collapse of government 

In a televised speech Saturday evening and in an attempt to diffuse public anger, Diab offered to propose early parliamentary elections said he was prepared to stay in the post for two months to allow time for politicians to work on structural reforms.

Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm on Monday handed in her resignation. 

She was the third Cabinet minister to resign over the blast.

READ MORE: More government resignations expected as public anger grows in Lebanon

Government failure

A Lebanese judge started an inquiry on Monday into the heads of the country’s security agencies over last week’s devastating explosion.

The blast is believed to have been caused by a fire that ignited a 2,750-tonne stockpile of explosive ammonium nitrate. 

The material had been stored at the port since 2013 with few safeguards despite numerous warnings of the danger it posed.

About 20 people have been detained, including the head of Lebanon’s customs department and his predecessor, as well as the head of the port. 

Dozens of people have been questioned, including two former Cabinet ministers, according to government officials.

READ MORE: Fury rages in Lebanon as violent protests follow disastrous explosion

Financial ruin

The result was a disaster Lebanese blame squarely on their leadership’s corruption and neglect. 

Lebanon is plagued with a financial crisis that has seen the country enter talks with the International Monetary Fund in May after it defaulted on its foreign currency debt. Those talks were put on hold in the absence of reforms.

Lebanon's financial crisis came to a head in October as capital inflows slowed and protests erupted over corruption and bad governance.

The blast destroyed the country’s main port and damaging large parts of the capital. Losses from the blast are estimated to be between $10 billion to $15 billion, and nearly 300,000 people were left homeless in the immediate aftermath.

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On Sunday, world leaders and international organizations pledged nearly $300 million in emergency humanitarian aid to Beirut in the wake of the explosion, but warned that no money for rebuilding the capital would be made available until Lebanese authorities commit themselves to the political and economic reforms demanded by the people.

READ MORE: Number of missing after Beirut explosion drops as death toll rises

Hezbollah, Iran and Israel

Iran meanwhile has expressed concern that Western countries and their allies might exploit anger over the explosion to pursue their political interests. Iran supports the Hezbollah militant group, which along with its allies dominates the government and parliament.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said: “It is natural for people to be frustrated.” But he said it would be “unacceptable if some individuals, groups and foreign countries use the incident as a pretext for their purposes and intentions.”

Israel’s defence minister drew a line on Monday between the blast and claims that Hezbollah stores its rockets and weapons deep inside civilian areas.

While he did not accuse Hezbollah and its arms of being linked to the blast, Benny Gantz said villages and towns across Lebanon were packed with Hezbollah arms that if set off — whether by Israeli operations or by accident — would destroy homes. 

He said Hezbollah was Lebanon’s biggest problem.

READ MORE: Here's how the world is reacting to the horror of Beirut's port explosion

Source: TRTWorld and agencies