Stones on the ground during anti-government protest in Beirut
Stones on the ground during anti-government protest in Beirut Reuters

Lebanese anti-riot police dispersed stone-throwing protesters with tear gas in the capital Beirut on Sunday, as a weekend of rare violence that wounded hundreds continued, AFP reports.

Medics said 145 people were wounded in the latest clashes, taking the casualty toll to more than 530 in two days.

Thick clouds of white tear gas billowed in central Beirut, as police pushed protesters out of a flashpoint road near parliament after hours of clashes, before the downpour largely cleared the streets.

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.

While the protests but had largely been peaceful, things changed this week, when riots broke out in Beirut’s Hamra area, with bank facades smashed and stones pelted at security forces who fired back with tear gas.

On Saturday, police fired tear gas and water cannons at hundreds of anti-government protesters in downtown Beirut, injuring at least 377, according to AFP.

In Sunday’s violence, the Red Cross said, more than 145 people were injured, including 45 who needed treatment in hospital.

The state-run National News Agency (NNA) said two journalists were hit by rubber bullets, one a cameraman from local television channel Al-Jadeed.

President Michel Aoun called for a "security meeting" on Monday with the interior and defense ministers to discuss the crisis, NNA reported.

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.

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