Lebanon’s information minister, Manal Abdel Samad, has quit in the first government resignation since an explosion in the port of Beirut killed more than 150 people and destroyed swathes of the capital.
“After the enormous Beirut catastrophe, I announce my resignation from government,” she said on Sunday in a statement , apologising to the Lebanese public for failing them.
The head of Lebanon’s Maronite church called on the entire government to step down over the explosion, widely seen as proof of the rot at the core of the state.
Lebanese protesters enraged by the blast vowed to rally again after a night of street clashes in which they stormed several ministries.
The Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi joined the chorus of people pressing the prime minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet to step down over the explosion which he said could be “described as a crime against humanity”.
“It is not enough for a lawmaker to resign here, or a minister to resign there,” Rai said in a Sunday sermon. “It is necessary, out of sensitivity to the feelings of the Lebanese and the immense responsibility required, for the entire government to resign, because it is incapable of moving the country forward.”
He echoed calls by Diab for early parliamentary polls – a long-standing demand of a protest movement that began in October, asking for the removal of a political class deemed inept and corrupt. At least six lawmakers have quit since the explosion.
The Maronite patriarch also joined world leaders, international organisations and the Lebanese public in pressing for an international inquiry into the explosion, which, authorities say, was triggered by a fire in a port warehouse where a huge shipment of hazardous ammonium nitrate had languished for years.
The Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, rejected calls on Friday for an international investigation which, he said, would “dilute the truth”.
Under pressure from the public and foreign partners who are exasperated by the Lebanese leadership’s inability to enact reforms, Diab’s government is looking increasingly unstable.