Protests in Lebanon turn violent for second straight night

Dozens injured after Lebanese security forces use batons and tear gas to forcefully break up demonstrations.

Elad Benari ,

Protests in Beirut, January 14, 2020
Protests in Beirut, January 14, 2020

Protests in Lebanon turned violent for a second night on Wednesday, with dozens injured after Lebanese security forces used batons and tear gas to forcefully break up demonstrations, Reuters reports.

The violence comes after on Tuesday night, riots broke out in Beirut’s Hamra area, with bank facades smashed and stones pelted at security forces who fired back with tear gas.

The unrest continued on Wednesday when anti-government protesters hurled stones and fireworks at security forces outside a Beirut police station where some demonstrators were being detained from the night before, according to Reuters.

Police dispersed the protests with batons and tear gas.

The Lebanese Red Cross said that 45 people had been injured, 35 of whom had been transferred to hospitals for treatment.

Lebanon has been swept by a wave of mostly peaceful protests aimed at the country’s elite that prompted Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to resign on October 29, pushing the country deeper into economic crisis.

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.

In a statement, caretaker interior minister Raya al-Hassan condemned the violence and called on demonstrators to remain peaceful.

“We do not accept the attack of journalists which are doing their duty to cover events and developments, nor do we accept the attack of security forces which are maintaining security,” Hassan said.

Hassan Diab was designated by the President as prime minister in mid-December, but he has so far failed to form an emergency government amid political divisions and jockeying for power.

While Diab is backed by Hezbollah and its Shiite allies, he lacks the support of major Sunni figures.