Lebanese security forces faced off with civilians on Thursday as protesters blocked roads and kept up the momentum of their widespread anti-government demonstrations.
The protests began in October in response to the proposal of a new tax on the WhatsApp messenger service. They quickly escalated into a wider pushback against a political establishment that has ruled the country since the end of the country’s civil war in 1990 that many deem to be corrupt, sectarian, and highly incompetent.
Following two weeks of effective lockdown with the closure of schools, business, and many public services, authorities had planned to re-open roads to allow a return to normal life.
Diehard protesters scuppered their plans by taking to the streets on Thursday, just two days after Prime Minister Saad Hariri offered his resignation. Parents were informed that schools would remain closed, while police were unable to clear thoroughfares as people blocked roads and staged sit-ins across the capital of Beirut.
— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) October 31, 2019
The fall of Hariri’s government has reduced the intensity of the demonstrations, yet many activists hope to maintain the pressure on the government until it gives in to their desired reforms.
University professor Walid Rihani told The Times of Israel that protesters want the installation of technocratic government and the calling of parliamentary elections.
“We are back on the streets to remind (them) that the formation of a new government should not take more than 48 hours,” he said.
Lebanon is currently in the midst of an “economic state of emergency,” with around $86 billion in debt, around 150 percent of its GDP. Meanwhile, the country experiences frequent power outages, unreliable water supplies, and trash often going uncollected.
Despite forcing the country into an effective lockdown, the protests have so far been largely bloodless, with the apex of the violence being scuffles between protesters and supporters of the terrorist group Hezbollah, which operates as a political party in the country.
Soldiers in Lebanon beat protesters who were blocking roads and highways outside Beirut. Some were arrested.
They are part of protests against corruption and the economy. Many major roads remain closed, along with banks and schools. pic.twitter.com/K8e22T5dKA
— AJ+ (@ajplus) October 23, 2019
The protesters’ attackers were mostly supporters of Hezbollah its allied Shiite Amal party. Last week, Hezollah’s terror chief blamed “Zionists” for the protests.
“What does it mean that the Israelis get Lebanese among those who are in the Zionist entity to the border to show solidarity with the protests,” he was quoted as saying by Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television network.
On Tuesday, Hezbollah supporters rampaged through the main protest camp, smashing chairs and setting fire to tents. They were eventually dispersed by authorities with tear gas, allowing the protesters to resume their sit-in a couple of hours later.
— Rebecca Collard (@rebeccacollard) October 29, 2019
On Sunday, tens of thousands of demonstrators formed a human chain running 105 miles from the south to the north of the country, in what was intended to show a feeling of national unity.
“The significance of the human chain is honestly to show the sheer number of people who are actually against the regime and what the government has been doing for the last 30 years,” Wael Abifaker, a participant in the Beirut chain link, told Al Arabiya. “It needs to be seen by the world, all of Lebanon, and especially by the corrupt government to show that we are all unified.”
People from across Lebanon have come together to call for their leaders to step down
Sunday marked the 11th day of protests in the country, where people attempted a human chain 170km (105 miles) from north to south
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) October 27, 2019