Lebanon News

Beirut protest turns violent, 14 soldiers injured in Beddawi

BEIRUT: Scuffles broke out between protesters and sympathizers of caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the Lebanese capital Friday afternoon. A group of people demonstrating against the Beirut Municipality, its mayor and governor gathered at the municipality to protest corruption.

A short time later, a group of men who claimed to be from Beirut rushed to the scene and argued with the protesters.

Pushing and shoving ensued, and an unidentified number of people were injured. A Lebanese Red Cross ambulance rushed the scene.

Speaking to The Daily Star, one protester questioned why Hariri’s supporters had decided to push back against the demonstration.

“Are they not also poor? Can they withdraw any money from [the] bank?” she asked.

Riot police moved in to separate the two groups. The counter-protesters stood in front of the building, blocking the entrance, while the protesters stood on the other side of the road.

One of the partisan protesters alleged that “these [protesters] are not even from Beirut.”

Members of the Lebanese Army also deployed to the scene as bottles and stones were thrown back and forth. Calm returned to the area shortly after 2 p.m.

Earlier Friday protesters gathered outside the Central Inspections Bureau demanding a new contract between the Telecoms Ministry and Lebanon’s two mobile phone companies be put up for competitive tender, the state-run National News Agency reported.

The protesters said that the Tenders Department should manage the file and award the contract with transparency and irrespective of sectarian quotas.

The chair of Parliament’s Media and Communications Committee, MP Hussein Hajj Hasan, announced in December that the management of the state-owned cellular companies Alfa and touch should be returned to the state.

The committee had previously discovered that the two telecoms companies had committed violations, such a submitting fake tenders, inflating expenditures and providing unnecessary services.

In the early morning Friday, protests were reignited and road closures were back in full swing in some areas, especially north Lebanon.

Roads were blocked in Tripoli’s Beddawi area late Thursday night and in the early hours of Friday after several men were detained following a scuffle with the Lebanese Army the night before.

The Army released a statement Friday saying that a number of men blocked the main road in the Beddawi area the night before with cement blocks.

Soldiers deployed to the area to intervene and open the road. But the men blocking the road hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at the Army, which led to 14 injured soldiers, according to the statement.

Some eight people were arrested as a result.

Dozens of protesters also blocked Beirut’s “Ring Bridge” with burning tires early Friday, in solidarity with those in Tripoli.

The NNA also reported demonstrators broke into an electricity company in Douris in Baalbeck Friday morning, in protest of increased electricity rationing in the area.

They prevented employees from carrying out their work, and blocked people from coming into the building, the NNA said.

The protesters later moved to the regional financial headquarters in Baalbeck and locked the front door, chanting against financial policies.

Protesters also took similar actions at the Financial Department in Tripoli Friday morning.

Nationwide protests broke out on Oct. 17 against the entire ruling class in Lebanon amid a deteriorating financial and economic situation in the country. Sit-ins, protests targeting state institutions and road closures have been among the most-used tactics of protesters in recent months. - Additional reporting by Nick Newsom and Emily Lewis

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 11, 2020, on page 2.

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