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22 Jan, 2020 21:23

Smoke and violence in Beirut as Lebanese protests continue after new government formed (VIDEOS)

Smoke and violence in Beirut as Lebanese protests continue after new government formed (VIDEOS)

The streets of Beirut filled with smoke and echoed with shots, as demonstrators faced off against riot police in the Lebanese capital. The formation of a new government has failed to quell public anger.

After months of uncertainty, President Michel Aoun – a Maronite Christian – offered the post of prime minister to Hassan Diab, a Sunni Muslim. Diab’s coalition received the support of Hezbollah, a Shia political and military movement influential in southern Lebanon. The fresh cabinet consists of 20 ministers.

Protesters continued to throng the streets of Beirut into Wednesday night, however, raging at corruption, unemployment, national debt spiraling out of control, and inadequate public services, as well as the web of sectarian alliances that traditionally dominates Lebanese politics. 

Riot police in armored vehicles attempted to clear the streets, and engaged in running battles with demonstrators. Multiple arrests can be seen in video footage captured by RT’s video news agency, Ruptly.

Clouds of tear gas filled the streets, and what sounds like the fire of non-lethal weapons can be heard echoing over the crowds.

Protesters shot fireworks at lines of police, while the police responded with riot control weapons. Masked crowds were also seen dismantling barricades and lighting fires. At least one protester can be seen being punched and kicked by officers.

Also on rt.com Lebanese president calls on ARMY to intervene as massive protests turn violent in Beirut (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Protests against the dire economic situation have been ongoing for several months now, and led to the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri in October. 

However, the appointment of Diab’s new cabinet only stoked further violence, with rubber bullets and water canon deployed against stone-throwing rioters on the day of the announcement. Protesters say that Diab’s cabinet is made up of political appointees rather than the independent technocrats the country needs to solve its political and economic woes.

Lebanon is home to 18 different religious communities, with Shia and Sunni Muslims and the Maronite and Greek Orthodox Christians being the four largest. They have shared power according to a formula developed in the 1940s, according to which the president is always a Maronite, the PM is always Sunni, and the speaker of the parliament is Shia, among others.

The breakdown of this formula caused the 1975 civil war, which only ended in 1990 due in part to the efforts of Rafiq Hariri, a Sunni Muslim politician and Saad Hariri’s father, who was assassinated in a 2005 car bombing.

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