Lebanon: Two Months of Protest


Riot police and security forces deployed en masse in Beirut on Saturday night, chasing demonstrators, beating and detaining some of them, a Reuters witness and a protester said.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese Red Cross added it transported four injured in the clashes that broke out when the forces fired teargas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators, who started hurling fireworks.

Sunday morning's violence around the epicentre of the protest site in Beirut was some of the worst since the demonstrations began two months ago.

An AFP photographer saw men in plainclothes bludgeoning protesters, while anti-riot police fired rubber bullets at protesters throwing stones.

The Lebanese presidency said it had delayed consultations to designate a new prime minister initially slated to be held today until Thursday, in response to a request from caretaker leader Hariri, who had been expected to be named premier again.

Under Lebanon's power-sharing system, the prime minister has to be a Sunni Muslim, the president a Maronite Christian and the parliament speaker from the Shiite community.

Talks on the formation of a new government in Lebanon have been deadlocked after Hariri resigned in October following mass protests against his government plan to increase taxes.

"Li-Haqqi" group called on the Lebanese citizens to participate in the demonstrations, on Sunday, and exert more pressure in Beirut, where the revolution's squares are subjected to "repression and abuse".

Snow and ice warning for country is extended
However, forecasters predict there will be a reprieve from Wednesday with unsettled weather bringing warmer conditions and rain. Afternoon highs of 3 and 5 degrees and winds will be fresh to strong southwesterly in the north, light variable in the south.

The Lebanese Civil Defense said in a Facebook statement Sunday that it had treated 72 people for injuries including 20 people who were transported to the hospital.

Protesters regroup over the next days, demanding a government of technocrats, independent of traditional political parties divided along sectarian lines. Among the people in the streets, in fact, the most widespread opinion is that there is a growing number of infiltrators to delegitimize the protest and justify the repression.

Plumes of white smoke billowed from tear gas canisters and ambulance sirens rang out as the two sides raced around the streets of central Beirut in cat-and-mouse clashes late into the night.

The Star further reported that more than forty protesters were injured, including "some beaten repeatedly with batons by security forces".

Hariri's office confirmed in a statement the decision was prompted by the LF move, saying it would have left him without the support of a leading Christian grouping, a necessity for "national consensus".

Political groups have been unable to agree on a new candidate while protesters have been calling for a government unaffiliated with established political parties.

"Change needs time and patience and we will not stop until we achieve our goals and remove this regime completely", said 23-year-old protester Carla. The Red Cross said none of the injured were in serious condition and a lot of them were treated on the spot.

At the same time, a dollar shortage has threatened to cause shortages of basic imports such as fuel, wheat and medicine, and has pressured a decades-old currency peg of 1,500 Lebanese pounds to the United States dollar.