Lebanese security forces fired water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas on Sunday to attempt to break the stone-throwing demonstrators in Beirut, which has been shocked by some of the worst violence since the October unrest broke out.
Sunday’s confrontation broke out near parliament, a day after more than 370 people were injured, the largest number of victims since the protests against the ruling elite started.
Unrest in the capital this week has deepened the multifaceted crisis that floods Lebanon while struggling with financial tensions that have lowered the currency, driven up prices and encouraged banks to impose capital controls.
Politicians have not agreed on a government or an economic rescue plan since the protests forced Saad al-Hariri to stop as prime minister in October.
“We have grown from a country we used to call ‘Switzerland of the East’ to a country at the very bottom,” said housewife Rezzan Barraj, 47, during Sunday night’s protest.
“It is clear that the more they (security forces) increase their violence, the more the strength and determination of people grow.”
A Reuters witness saw the police firing rubber bullets. The Lebanese Red Cross said it treated 52 people and took 38 to the hospital.
A demonstrator pierced the barriers in a heavily barricaded part of central Beirut, including the parliament. (Aziz Taher / Reuters)
Hundreds of people shouted “revolution” in the commercial district of the capital. Protesters raised riot police with stones and fireworks.
Some tried to climb over barbed wire and screens to storm a heavily barricaded part of central Beirut that also included parliament. A man poked the police with a pole over the barriers while the violence escalated.
Zeina Ibrahim, 37, office manager, said protesters had been confronted with police violence and attacks by supporters of sectarian, dominant parties.
“Violence only causes violence,” she said. “After all this time, all those months … I don’t blame the protesters at all if they go little by little toward violence.”
Ministers, military representatives to meet on Monday
The Internal Security Forces (ISF) urged people to stay calm and said it would otherwise be forced to ward them off.
The Ministers of the Interior and Defense, as well as army and other security heads, would meet in the presidential palace on Monday.
Human Rights Watch on Saturday called for an end to a “culture of impunity for abuse” by the police, which said tear gas bottles were being fired on some people.
“We have grown from a country that we used to call” Switzerland of the East, “to a country at the very bottom,” a demonstrator said. (Aziz Taher / Reuters)
Interior Minister Raya al-Hassan said that people had the right to protest, but it was unacceptable to “shamelessly” attack the security forces.
Protesters have also directed their anger at the banks – which have restricted access to savings – with some destroying the façade of the banking association on Saturday night.
Hassan Diab, who was appointed Prime Minister last month with the support of the Islamist movement Hezbollah and his allies, met President Michel Aoun on Sunday.
A high-ranking political source told Reuters that the government’s line-up would be completed on Sunday, but Diab left without commenting because a cabinet agreement remained elusive.