Lebanon: Protester Death Triggers Hundreds Rioting as Coronavirus Cripples Economy

Lebanese demonstrators chant anti-government slogans while they walk through the streets o
ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images

Hundreds of protesters set two banks on fire and clashed with security forces in Tripoli, Lebanon, on Tuesday, after soldiers shot a man dead during related protests the night before.

Citizens across Lebanon have been demonstrating to express their frustration at the country’s ongoing financial crisis, made worse by recent Chinese coronavirus lockdown measures, Voice of America (VOA) reported on Tuesday.

Some protesters aimed stones at soldiers and launched Molotov cocktails at several banks on Tuesday, causing widespread damage to Tripoli, a largely Sunni Muslim city and one of Lebanon’s most impoverished and neglected areas. Medical and security forces told VOA that Tuesday’s outbursts began shortly after the funeral for a man killed by soldiers during demonstrations on Monday night.

The violence prompted the army to fire rubber bullets and tear gas into crowds of protesters.

Video footage obtained by Saudi news organization al-Arabiya shows demonstrators on Tuesday night gathered in the street, as soldiers are heard firing what seem to be rounds of tear gas and warning shots in the background.

The Lebanese army said that 40 soldiers were wounded in Tripoli and elsewhere in Lebanon on Monday night. Security patrols sent to reopen roads [as part of Lebanon’s easing of coronavirus lockdown measures] were attacked with stones. Nine protesters were arrested for attacking security forces, the Epoch Times reported.

In response to the unrest, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab reminded the public that “we are facing a new reality” amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures, which threaten to decimate Lebanon’s failing economy.

Diab warned that “malicious intentions behind the scenes” were “shaking stability,” an apparent reference to what the Lebanese army called “infiltrators” who the army blamed for injecting violence into Tripoli’s protests, the Epoch Times reports. The army urged peaceful protesters to leave the streets.

“This is not a riot, this is expressing [anger] that the [U.S.] dollar has reached 4,000 Lebanese pounds … How are people going to eat?” said Tripoli activist Abou Hussein, according to VOA.

Hussein referred to the collapse of the Lebanese pound amid the country’s financial crisis, which has been worsening since October. The economic decline has left tens of thousands of Lebanese unemployed and frustrated, leading many citizens to protest the conditions in Tripoli and other cities.

Lebanon, like most countries around the world, has imposed restrictions on society to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which has further pummeled the country’s economy. Lebanon’s coronavirus lockdown measures began on March 15, closing most businesses and allowing only essential movement.

The restrictions have been gradually easing in recent days. Some restrictions may be extended until May 10, Reuters reported on April 24.


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