Thu, Jan 16, 2020 - Page 6 News List

Police fire tear gas as Lebanese ‘week of wrath’ begins

AFP, BEIRUT

Protesters smash a window during an anti-government rally in Hamra Street in Beirut on Tuesday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Lebanese demonstrators have taken to the streets to demand an end to a months-long political vacuum, with police firing tear gas at the start of what protesters have billed a “week of wrath.”

Protesters on Tuesday resumed blocking major highways before anti-riot police armed with batons and shields charged hundreds of demonstrators outside the Lebanese central bank, a correspondent said.

The charge dispersed the crowd, some of whom smashed paving stones to hurl them at police, while others distributed onions to ward off the effects of the tear gas.

The Lebanese Civil Defence said it had treated civilians and members of the police for light injuries at the scene, without saying how many, while others who had been wounded were taken to hospital, it said.

On Twitter, the security forces denounced “attacks” led by “rioters” who had thrown stones and firecrackers at police. Although protests had declined in size in recent weeks, demonstrations have been ongoing since October last year, increasingly targeting banks and state institutions blamed for driving Lebanon toward collapse.

The cross-sectarian movement has been fueled by a crippling economic crisis, the worst since Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war.

Debt-burdened Lebanon has been without a government after Saad Hariri resigned as prime minister on Oct. 29, last year, as political parties fail to agree on the makeup of a new team.

“Rebel, Beirut,” dozens of protesters chanted as they marched to the sound of drums toward the home of Lebanese prime minister designate Hassan Diab, who has struggled to form a Cabinet since he was named on Dece. 19.

“I want a government that can resolve the economic crisis as quickly as possible,” said Nour, a 31-year-old marcher.

As a liquidity crisis grows and the cost of living rises, protesters have returned to the streets to urge politicians to swiftly form a Cabinet of experts to respond to their demands.

On Tuesday morning, dozens of protesters blocked key highways in and around Beirut with overturned garbage cans and burning tires.

Laila Youssef, 47, said she was taking part to call on politicians to wake up.

“We’ve gone back to closing down roads because we can’t stand it anymore,” the mother of three said. “What we earn today is not enough to buy the basics for home.”

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