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Beirut explosion: Entire Lebanese government to resign within hours over deadly blast, minister says

The entire Lebanese cabinet is set to resign over last week’s devastating blast at Beirut port which killed hundreds of people and injured thousands more.

The news was initially announced by the country’s health minister Hamad Hassan who told reporters after a cabinet meeting that Prime Minister Hassan Diab will head to the presidential palace to “hand over the resignation in the name of all the ministers.”

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Lebanese’s beleaguered government had faced mounting pressure from angry citizens to step down after it emerged Tuesday’s explosion was caused by a fire igniting a 2,700 tonne poorly-stored stockpile of explosive ammonium nitrate that the authorities knew about.

The fury has only mounted as the government has been accused of doing little to help the 300,000 people who were made homeless or those whose businesses and livelihoods were destroyed.

Beirut’s streets have been rocked by anti-government protests over the last two days, as demonstrators and members of the security forces have clashed outside parliament as well as several ministries, which citizens tried to occupy.

The explosion, centred at Beirut port, is believed to be one of the single largest non-nuclear blasts in modern history. It killed a t least 160 people and wounded about 6,000, in addition to destroying 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.

At the rallies, protesters holding nooses have told The Independent they blame the horrific incident on rampant corruption within the ruling elite. They said they feared the 250 million Euros raised by the international community in a virtual pledging conference hosted by France, would end up being squandered by the authorities and not helping the people.

About 20 people have been detained over the blast, 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.

Public Prosecutor Ghassan El Khoury began questioning Maj. Gen. Tony Saliba, the head of State Security on Monday. It gave no further details, but other generals are scheduled to be questioned.

Prior to the full resignation of government at least three ministers had already stepped down including the environment minister Damianos Kattar, who is a close aide of prime minister Diab.

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