Lebanon: More than 300 people wounded in Beirut clashes


Protesters threw steel barriers and flower pots, charging at the forces with sign posts.

Lebanese security forces fired water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas on Sunday to try to break up stone-throwing protesters in Beirut, which has been rocked by some of the worst violence since unrest erupted in October.

Unprecedented protests have rocked the country since October 17, with citizens from all religious backgrounds demanding the ouster of a political class viewed as inept, corrupt and responsible for an ever-deepening economic crisis.

"They are using the old method to form the government ... so it's not acceptable", protester Jil Samaha told the Associated Press.

The Red Cross said it had rushed 80 people to city hospitals while 140, including both protesters and members of the security forces, were given first aid at the scene of the clashes.

"It's clear that the more they [security forces] step up their violence, the more people's strength and determination grow". Riot police chased after men and women near Lebanon's parliament late into the night. The cabinet collapsed after the former prime minister Saad Hariri resigned in November, citing the protests, and leaders are deadlocked over the formation of a new ruling group.

Organisers had called for protesters in different parts of the capital to converge by sundown on the road leading to the Lebanese parliament in central Beirut.

Interior Minister Raya El Hassan said that security forces were ordered to protect peaceful protests.

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At least 114 people were injured in the demonstrations, according to the Red Cross and the Lebanese Civil Defense teams, many of them suffering wounds from being struck in the chest or the face with rubber bullets.

Human Rights Watch said riot police had fired tear gas canisters at the heads of some protesters and rubber bullets at their eyes.

Political factions agreed on December 19 to appoint former education minister Hassan Diab as the new premier but have since squabbled over proposed ministers.

Earlier in Beirut on Sunday, shopkeepers, banks and other businesses swept up broken glass and boarded-up windows. They blame politicians for widespread corruption and mismanagement in a country that has accumulated one of the largest debt ratios in the world.

The protesters have also attacked public and private property in Beirut, targeting mostly banks that have imposed informal capital controls, limiting the withdrawal of dollars and foreign transfers.

Anger at the banks - which curbed people's access to savings - boiled over, with protesters smashing bank facades and ATMs.

Nearby soot and ashes still littered the ground where security forces burned the tents of the protesters' sit-in during the chaotic melee.