Lebanese president calls on ARMY to intervene as massive protests turn violent in Beirut (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
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. Aoun called on the military to “protect the safety of peaceful protesters and of public and private property.”
Crowds have taken to the streets of Beirut in a massive protest against Lebanon’s soaring debt, which stands at about $87 billion, equal to more than 150 percent of GDP. The public unrest is also fueled by an almost three-months-long power vacuum and by a crippling economic crisis.
The rallies, held under the slogan “We will not pay the price,” soon descended into violence, as crowds of protesters sought to break through police cordons around the parliament, prompting officers to use tear gas.
Live from #Beirut - where electricity is cut from the whole Martyr square. Police is cracking down on protestors now. Numbers are still big. Teargas pouring like rain every 5 minutes. #lebanon#LebanonProtestspic.twitter.com/4XVbsd6rXB— Luna Safwan - لونا صفوان (@LunaSafwan) January 18, 2020
The protesters pelted police with stones and firecrackers. Others removed street signs and metal barriers, and hurled them at officers. Police responded with water cannons. Clouds of tear gas also soon filled the streets in the city center, scene of some of the most intense standoffs between the demonstrators and the law enforcement.
At least 220 people were injured in the Beirut clashes, the Lebanese Red Cross/Red Crescent has told AP, adding that 80 of them were hospitalized while some 140 others were treated on the spot. The head of the Red Cross, George Kettneh said that the number of the injured includes both demonstrators and members of the law enforcement.
Protests in downtown Beirut already getting spicy. Protesters trying to break into parliament. Police using water cannon. We’ve seen 2 injuries. No big crowds yet, but it’s early pic.twitter.com/Ey7ncIqK4n— Liz Sly (@LizSly) January 18, 2020
At some point, a tent camp, erected by the protesters in one of Beirut’s central districts months ago, caught on fire. The flames quickly engulfed dozens of tents leading to a major blaze right in the city center.
Some people on Twitter suggested security forces might have set the tents on fire to stop a crowd from marching on parliament. However, the exact cause of the blaze still remains unclear and there have been no official comments on this matter.
Massive protests have repeatedly been gripping Beirut and other Lebanese cities for months, despite Lebanese PM Saad Hariri’s resignation in October. No government has been formed ever since, as political parties continue to argue over its composition. The protesters, which had accused Hariri of corruption, demand that all posts in the new government are assumed solely by independent technocrats.
The public anger is not directed only against the government: lately, protesters have blocked major highways and vandalized some bank offices as they began the so-called “week of wrath.”
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