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Lebanon security forces face off against protesters near parliament building

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A demonstrator throws a tear gas canister during a protest against a ruling elite accused of steering Lebanon towards economic crisis in Beirut, Lebanon January 18, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Security forces in Beirut fired tear gas and used water cannons on Saturday in clashes with protesters armed with tree branches and sign posts near Lebanon’s parliament.

After a lull in largely peaceful protests which broke out across the country in October over the state of the economy, people filled the streets again this week. They are furious at a ruling elite that has steered the country towards its worst economic crisis in decades.

Police wielding batons and firing tear gas have wounded dozens of people at protests in recent days, alarming human rights groups. Anger at the banks – which have curbed people’s access to their savings – boiled over, with protesters smashing bank facades and ATMs on Tuesday night.

Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces said on Saturday that police in Beirut were being “violently and directly” confronted at one of the entrances to the parliament. In a tweet, it called on people to leave the area for their own safety.

Witnesses said they saw young men hurling stones and flower pots towards riot police, while protesters tried to push through an entrance to a heavily barricaded district of central Beirut, which includes the parliament.

Hundreds of protesters marched and chanted against in the political class in other parts of the capital. A large banner at one of the rallies read: “If the people go hungry, they will eat their rulers.”

The unrest, which stemmed from anger at corruption and the rising cost of living, forced Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to resign in October. Feuding politicians have since failed to agree a new cabinet or rescue plan.

The Lebanese pound has lost nearly half its value, while dollar shortages have driven up prices and confidence in the banking system has collapsed.

Reporting by Ellen Francis; Editing by Mike Harrison

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via Reuters