Some Lebanese called 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, citing the explosion and the failure of the government to carry out reforms.
Dozens of people were injured in yesterday’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.