The confrontations between demonstrators and security forces renewed yesterday evening, Sunday, in the city of Tripoli in northern Lebanon, after a brief calm that followed days of violent clashes against the background of the economic repercussions of the strict closure imposed to contain the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Calm returned by the end of the week in the largest city in North Lebanon, after daily clashes that left one person dead and more than 400 injured, but on Sunday evening, security forces threw tear gas canisters from the roof of the Serail building, which is a government building for official transactions adjacent to the Tripoli municipality building.
Ten injured protesters were treated at the scene, most of them suffered from breathing difficulties, according to French Press Agency, quoting the Secretary-General of the Lebanese Red Cross, George Kittana.
The army intervened
For its part, the Lebanese army said that it had arrested 17 people in recent days, for what it called riots in Tripoli.
According to an army statement, a patrol from the Intelligence Directorate arrested 17 people for “rioting and sabotaging (…) and throwing Molotov cocktails at the security forces and suspected that a number of them participated in burning the municipality building and throwing grenades at the Serail of Tripoli.”
Hundreds of protesters gathered Sunday afternoon in Al-Nour Square, the protest center in the city, in response to calls on social networks to attend from all regions of the country in solidarity with Tripoli.
The demonstrations, which began on January 25, came against the backdrop of the economic repercussions of the closure imposed to contain the outbreak of the Corona virus, which will continue until February 8.
The protesters accuse the authorities of abandoning the people most affected by the repercussions of the pandemic, especially since the country has been experiencing for more than a year an economic crisis that is the worst in decades.
During the crisis, the value of the Lebanese pound decreased in an unprecedented way, inflation increased, and widespread layoffs were recorded, and banks imposed strict restrictions on transactions.
In recent days, Lebanese politicians and media outlets have questioned the spontaneity of the demonstrations, in a country accustomed to crises and disputes between the major parties that dominate the political scene.
The deterioration of the economy
The deterioration of economic conditions was one of the causes of the unprecedented popular uprising in the fall of 2019, which targeted all the political elites that had held power for decades, and accused them of corruption and incompetence.
More than half of the Lebanese today live below the poverty line, according to the United Nations, while the percentage of people living in extreme poverty increased from 8% to 23%.
Earlier on Sunday, the Minister of Interior, Mohamed Fahmy, said that the security forces would not tolerate the defense of Tripoli.
The official news agency reported, on Sunday, that “a number of young men (…) set fire to tires in front of the Tripoli Saraya guards’ room, then went to the back door of the Saraya, and threw stones heavily at the security forces, who responded by firing teargas canisters to disperse them and keep them away from the entrance to the Saraya. Back. “
On Sunday, hundreds of Lebanese from different regions flocked to Tripoli to support the protesters, in response to calls on social media.
And rejecting a proposal to impose a tax on the use of a free application for communication, popular protests began in Lebanon, on October 17, 2019, accusing the ruling political elite of corruption and incompetence, and forcing the government of Saad Hariri to resign after 12 days.
For more than a year, Lebanon has been suffering an economic crisis, the worst since the civil war (1975-1990), which led to a financial collapse, as well as significant material losses incurred by the central bank, in addition to the repercussions of a catastrophic explosion in the port of the capital Beirut, on 4 August.
The country also suffers from severe polarization between the political forces that prevented the formation of a government that succeeds the current caretaker government, headed by Hassan Diab, which resigned 6 days after the port explosion.