Security forces in Beirut fired tear gas and used water cannons on Saturday in clashes with protesters armed with tree branches and sign posts near Lebanon’s parliament.
The Lebanese Red Cross reported that 75 persons were injured during the clashes between the security forces and the protesters in Beirut. The protest movement have been rocking Lebanon since October 17 has revived this week, over delays in forming a new cabinet to address the country’s growing economic crisis.
Anger at the banks – which have curbed people’s access to their savings – boiled over, with protesters smashing bank facades and ATMs on Tuesday night.
Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces said on Saturday that police in Beirut were being “violently and directly” confronted at one of the entrances to the parliament. In a tweet, it called on people to leave the area for their own safety.
Witnesses said they saw young men hurling stones and flower pots towards riot police, while protesters tried to push through an entrance to a heavily barricaded district of central Beirut, which includes the parliament.
Hundreds of protesters marched and chanted against the political class in other parts of the capital. A large banner at one of the rallies read: “If the people go hungry, they will eat their rulers.”
Protest camp on fire
It was not immediately clear what had caused the fire. The Internal Security Forces (ISF) denied media reports that some of its forces had set the camp on fire.
Activists set up the camp in recent months as part of protests against a political class that plunged the country into its worst economic crisis in decades.
The unrest, which stemmed from anger at corruption and the rising cost of living, forced Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to resign in October. Feuding politicians have since failed to agree a new cabinet or rescue plan.
The Lebanese pound has lost nearly half its value, while dollar shortages have driven up prices and confidence in the banking system has collapsed.