Hezbollah supporters clash with protesters in Beirut

Group of Hezbollah supporters attack demonstrators protesting against Lebanon’s political elite in central Beirut.

Elad Benari ,

Clashes between anti-government demonstrators and Hezbollah supporters in Beirut
Clashes between anti-government demonstrators and Hezbollah supporters in Beirut

A group of Hezbollah supporters attacked demonstrators protesting against Lebanon’s political elite in central Beirut late Sunday, The Associated Press reported.

The incident triggered confrontations as security forces separated the two sides.

The attacks by young men armed with clubs and metal rods chanting pro-Hezbollah slogans continued into the early hours of Monday as riot police and soldiers formed a human barrier preventing them from reaching the protesters.

Groups of young men, including some women, threw stones at each other for hours. Several people were beaten and injured. At least one man held up a large yellow Hezbollah flag, according to AP.

The attacks occurred after protesters blocked a major intersection known as the Ring Road that links eastern neighborhoods of the capital with western parts. Protesters simultaneously closed roads in areas north of Beirut and in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

Lebanon has suffered protests since October 17, with demonstrators demanding an end to widespread corruption and mismanagement by the political class that has governed for three decades.

The protests in Lebanon were initially started in response to what has become known as the “WhatsApp Tax”, which would have seen a 20-cent daily fee being charged for messaging app users. The tax was later scrapped but the protests have continued and have morphed into a cross-sectarian street mobilization against a political system seen as corrupt and broken.

The protests forced the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign on October 29. Politicians have failed to agree on a new Cabinet since, despite a rapidly deteriorating economic and financial crisis.

Former Lebanese finance minister Mohammad Safadi emerged as a candidate for Prime Minister several days ago, when political sources and Lebanese media said three major parties had agreed to support him for the position.

However, Safadi withdrew his candidacy just two days later, saying that he saw that it would have been difficult to form a “harmonious” cabinet supported by all parties

The leaderless protesters say they are blocking roads to exert pressure on politicians to form a new government.

Hezbollah supporters have attacked the main protest camp in central Beirut on at least two occasions, destroying tents set up by protesters, according to AP.

The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, has said the nationwide protests have been exploited by foreign powers and are no longer spontaneous. He has warned they could drag Lebanon toward civil war and says protesters must stop blocking roads and paralyzing the country.