Lebanon's President Michel Aoun asked the army and security commanders to restore calm in central Beirut, where security forces clashed with protesters on Saturday night. Police struggled to contain the angry crowds with tear gas and water cannon. Aoun has asked the national army to restore peace and order on the streets of Beirut, as the city saw fierce clashes between protesters and security forces.
The President had called on security forces to protect peaceful protesters and work on restoring clam in downtown Beirut and to protect public and private property. He asked the ministers of defence and interior and heads of security agencies to act.
The clashes took place on the backdrop of a rapidly worsening financial crisis and an ongoing impasse over the formation of a new government after the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in late October. “The confrontations, fires, and acts of sabotage in central Beirut are crazy, suspicious and rejected. They threaten civil peace and warn of grave consequences,” tweeted Hariri, the caretaker prime minister. He called those behind the riots “outlaws” and called on police and armed forces to protect Beirut.
Police fired volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets in Lebanon's capital Saturday to disperse thousands of protesters amid some of the worst riotings since demonstrations against the country's ruling elite erupted three months ago. More than 150 people were injured. The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17 revived this week as a deepening economic crisis increases pressure to form a new government.
The protesters had called for a demonstration on Saturday afternoon with the theme "we will not pay the price" in reference to debt that stands at about $87 billion, or more than 150% of GDP. As rioting took place in central Beirut, thousands of other protesters arrived later from three different parts of the city to join the demonstration. They were later dispersed and chased by police into nearby Martyr's Square that has been a centre for protests.
No progress appears to have been made towards finalising the cabinet, in which protesters demand to be comprised of independent experts and exclude all established political parties. Lebanon has witnessed three months of protests against the political elite who have ruled the country since the end of the 1975-90 civil war. The protesters blame politicians for widespread corruption and mismanagement in a country that has accumulated one of the largest debt ratios in the world.
(with inputs from agencies)