Clashes in Lebanon amid crash in local currency

Clashes break out in city of Tripoli in northern Lebanon as protesters smashed fronts of banks, set fire to an army vehicle.

Elad Benari ,

Soldier walks near burning tires during protests in Tripoli, Lebanon
Soldier walks near burning tires during protests in Tripoli, Lebanon

Clashes broke out on Monday night between protesters and security forces in the city of Tripoli in northern Lebanon, amid a crash in the local currency and a surge in food prices.

According to The Associated Press, dozens of young men smashed the fronts of local banks and set fire to an army vehicle, as the protests turned into riots.

The Red Cross said its teams were working on evacuating wounded people from the clashes.

Scattered anti-government protests resumed last week as the government began easing the weeks-long lockdown to limit the spread of the new coronavirus in Lebanon, which has reported 710 cases and 24 deaths so far.

The number of registered cases has dropped over the past two weeks, leading to the shortening of the nighttime curfew by one hour and allowing some businesses to resume work on Monday.

The virus outbreak has exacerbated a severe economic and financial crisis gripping the country since late last year.

The Lebanese national currency hit a new record low over the weekend, with 4,000 pounds to the dollar on the black market while the official price remained at 1,507 pounds, according to AP.

Riots in Lebanon first erupted in October of 2019, 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 continued and morphed into a cross-sectarian street mobilization against a political system seen as corrupt and broken.

The protests resulted in the resignation of former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who was replaced by Hassan Diab.