Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

Lebanese security forces clash with protesters in Beirut

Footage aired on TV and social media networks showed army personnel chasing protesters and assaulting journalists

Lebanese anti-government protesters clash with riot policemen as they try to reach the government building in central Beirut. AP
Lebanese anti-government protesters clash with riot policemen as they try to reach the government building in central Beirut. AP

Lebanese troops deployed on the streets of the Lebanese capital of Beirut, where they scuffled with hundreds of protesters, who took to the streets on Sunday to denounce what they described as an economic and political crisis.

Security forces set-up barricades separating them from protesters in a standoff that locked down the city centre.

Videos posted on social media networks also showed armoured vehicles dispatched on a highway in Beirut, that appeared to have been closed down by demonstrators.

A number of journalists, including a photographer with Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper, and a broadcast team for Al Jadeed TV, were among those assaulted by security forces, according to footage aired on TV and on social media networks.

Protesters, meanwhile, pelted security forces with water bottles.

It was not immediately clear how many people took to the streets, but local media reports estimated that up to one thousand people took part in demonstrations, which saw protesters demanding the “overthrow of the regime.”

Some protesters were wearing yellow vests, resembling those worn by protesters in Paris this month. The demonstrators marched to the government building in central Beirut, carrying placards that called for an end to the deadlock and corruption.

Anti-government protesters and chant slogans. AP 
Anti-government protesters and chant slogans. AP 

The Lebanese army released a statement on Sunday saying it respected the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression. It also said it recognizes the just nature of protesters demands.

But, the army warned against damaging public and private property as well as exceeding “the framework of demands designated to the protest,” in an apparent reference to calls for the overthrow of the Lebanese government.

The call for the protests began on social media, with some using the symbol of a yellow vest with a cedar tree, a national symbol that appears on the country's flag.

Lebanon has been without a government since parliamentary elections were held in May.

This has stymied any move towards resolving the current deadlock and stalled necessary fiscal reforms that could unlock $11 billion in pledged donor loans during a Paris conference in April.

The country is grappling with the world's third highest debt-to-GDP ratio of about 150 per cent and is struggling to revive economic growth and control its finances.

Lebanese officials last week said that the formation of a government was imminent. However, a last-minute snag on Saturday further delayed the process.

Updated: December 23, 2018 08:54 PM