BEIRUT: Tens of thousands of Lebanese took to the streets Saturday in the 10th day of the nationwide uprising as Lebanese authorities repeatedly attempted to end roadblocks that have paralyzed much of the country over the past week.
People came together in public squares in Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon, Tyre, Nabatieh, Jal al-Dib and Zouk Mosbeh, as well as in the Bekaa Valley and other areas across the country.
In Beirut, protesters returned to block a key bridge linking east and west Beirut after police had forcibly opened it in the morning.
Police also returned to attempt to reopen the "ring bridge" just south of Downtown Beirut, but later retreated as protesters stood their ground.
Dozens of supporters later joined the protesters on the bridge, marching from the nearby Martyrs' Square.
In the morning, over a hundred members of the Internal Security Forces, including riot police, had cleared the bridge by removing demonstrators who sat on the ground in protest.
After the bridge was cleared, about a dozen women sat in the middle of the highway for a few minutes before getting up again.
One of the protesters, who fainted as the ISF dragged him out of the highway, was taken to a nearby Civil Defense ambulance.
"They [the ruling class] need to understand that Lebanon before Oct. 17 is not like after it," one of the protesters at the ring bridge said.
Meanwhile, in south Lebanon, the Army withdrew after negotiating with protesters who had closed a road in Okaibeh, between Sidon and Tyre.
The Lebanese Army also attempted to open a road in the Chevrolet area in the southeastern suburbs of Beirut. However, the protesters refused. The Army successfully opened the road for about three hours before protesters blocked it again. Afterward, the Army retreated.
Several other key roads remained closed. A highway connecting north Lebanon to the capital remained blocked in Zouk Mosbeh, Jal al-Dib and Jbeil. Other smaller roads in the Bekaa Valley and in north and south Lebanon were also blocked. The main highway connecting Beirut to south Lebanon was closed in the early hours of the morning, but was later reopened by the Army.
A "high-ranking security meeting" was held Saturday morning at Army headquarters in Yarze to plan the road-opening operation. An Army statement said the meeting included the bosses of Lebanon's four security services: Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun, General Security head Abbas Ibrahim, ISF head Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Othman and State Security head Maj. Gen. Toni Saliba.
The commanders discussed ways to facilitate movement on main roads and the protection of protesters. Local media reported they agreed on a plan to open the roads without the use of violence.
The operation comes as the Lebanese uprising entered its 10th day. Protesters had been trickling into in local public squares across the country Saturday morning.
After two days of scuffles between Hezbollah supporters, protesters and riot police in Beirut’s Downtown that left about a dozen wounded, some protesters spent the night in tents and cleaned the area in the early morning.
Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have been on the streets since Oct. 17 in the nationwide uprising against the ruling class that started as a protest against tax hikes proposals by government. Demands include the resignation of Cabinet and President Michel Aoun, new parliamentary elections be held, politicians be held accountable for alleged corruption and stolen public funds be reclaimed.
Meanwhile, schools reopened their doors in Baalbeck Saturday, the state-run National News Agency reported. Schools and banks across the country have been closed since last Friday.
A counter protest was also held by Free Patriotic Movement supporters in Jdeideh in support of Aoun, the party's founder. The FPM supporters held Lebanese flags and pictures of Aoun from when he was Army commander in the 1980s, during Lebanon's 1975-90 Civil War.