BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army Wednesday clashed with protesters blocking a major highway connecting north Lebanon to the capital, after it was blocked for the seventh day of nationwide protests against the ruling class.
Army personnel and protesters clashed at two main points near Zouk Mosbeh and Jal al-Dib.
Hundreds of soldiers, who were forcibly attempting to open the road, carried away and pushed some protesters, who were joined by Metn MPs Sami Gemayel and Elias Hankash, and later by Kesrouan MP Neemat Frem. Many people were taken and arrested by the Army.
The crowd that initially gathered at Jal al-Dib and Zouk Mosbeh stood at little over a hundred people. Following the clashes, the number of protesters in both areas was in the the thousands.
Several Army members were seen crying as protesters cheered for them.
“They are our brothers. They forced them to face us,” one protester said.
Protesters chanted the Lebanese national anthem and songs praising the Army, while raising both of their arms. The situation calmed again, as Army personnel retreated to the side of the road and protesters extended along the highway again in Jal al-Dib and Zouk Mosbeh.
The Army then called on protesters to refrain from blocking roads and warned against vandalism, in a statement issued following the clashes.
Lebanese Army is "committed to protecting freedom of expression and peaceful demonstrations," it added.
A similar situation occured earlier near Nahr al-Kalb.
“Stop acting,” one of the soldiers was heard shouting at a protester who had fainted and was lying on the ground.
The Army did not allow local TV station LBCI to film and made its crew move away from the scene. They also pressured TV station Al Jadeed to stop filming, but the reporter and crew refused.
“There are orders that you don’t film,” the soldier told the reporter.
One protester, who went back after the road was cleared and lay down on the street, was carried off by soldiers.
A similar incident took place in Sidon, where the Army also carried protesters away, and one protester passed out.
A number of roads were blocked in Beirut Wednesday morning.
“We’re blocking the road because we are demanding our rights,” Rabih al-Zein told The Daily Star, while blocking a bridge connecting east and west Beirut.
Roads in Nabatieh, Jal al-Dib and Jbeil, Dahr al-Baidar and other areas across Lebanon were also blocked.