Lebanon News

Beirut clashes wind down, more than 220 injured

BEIRUT: Violent clashes between security forces and protesters in Downtown Beirut wound down late Saturday after several hours of confrontation.

More than 220 people were injured, including 80 hospitalizations, according to the Lebanese Red Cross. Several protesters were arrested.

The Lebanese Army deployed and faced off with protesters outside the Kataeb Party headquarters in Saifi.

Riot police fired hundreds of rounds of tear gas at crowds, who spread from Saifi to the Ring Bridge, launching fireworks and throwing rocks.

Protesters threw tear gas back at police, some even using tennis rackets to volley the canisters. One man told local TV channel Al Jadeed that he was wounded when he was hit in the head by a canister.

Police also used rubber bullets on protesters, causing multiple injuries. Photographs on social media appeared to show protesters who had sustained head and bodily injuries from rubber bullets.

The imam of the Mohammad al-Amin Mosque called for police to move away after tear gas got inside the mosque, where men, women and children, were taking shelter.

Police and protesters had clashed on the steps of the building.

Some protesters targeted commercial banks and the Association of Banks in Lebanon, smashing their windows.

President Michel Aoun called on the Army and security forces to "restore calm" to the area and protect peaceful protesters. Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri called the clashes "crazy, suspicious and unacceptable."

Interior Minister Raya El Hassan said she defended peaceful protests, but that attacks on security forces and property were "totally inadmissible."

The Internal Security Forces tweeted twice to warn "peaceful protesters" to avoid the area, saying that police were being "directly and violently attacked."

Tents were torn down and set alight on the road leading to Riad al-Solh Square and in Martyrs' Square. TV channel Al Jadeed reported that security forces were responsible.

Both the ISF and the Parliament police denied any involvement.

Church bells and the call to prayer rang out in an attempt to quell the violence, which erupted outside Parliament late Saturday afternoon, as hundreds of protesters faced a heavy security presence and fortified barricades.

Some protesters threw fireworks, water bottles and rocks at riot police separated from the crowd by box-shaped shields covered in razor wire.

Some attempted to force riot police back by ramming them with planks of wood, street signs and metal barriers. They also tore branches from nearby trees.

Riot police responded with water cannon and tear gas, driving the crowd back and creating a large open space in front of the square.

Most protesters eventually cleared the area, spreading into nearby streets.

One young woman climbed on top of one of the shields, but got down after police brandished their batons at her. She later returned, but appeared to fall after being hit by a jet of water from the cannon. Protesters rushed to carry her away.

Despite the warning and the ongoing clashes, more people continued to arrive.

At the entrance near Riad al-Solh Square, protests began calmly. Hundreds gathered peacefully in the space and songs that have been heard frequently throughout the protests were played over loudspeakers.

However, the scene became more tense as some demonstrators threw fireworks at security forces, who then responded with tear gas.

Near Parliament, an MC had earlier called over a loudspeaker for the crowds to remain calm, as women and children were participating.

The Lebanese Army deployed in large numbers to the surrounding area, creating a checkpoint on the road connecting Martyrs' Square to and Nijmeh Square.

More than 15 buses packed with protesters set off for Beirut from Tripoli’s Al-Nour Square in the early afternoon. Among them were passengers from Akkar, Dinnieh and Batroun.

Protest groups earlier made calls via social media for people across the country to travel to Beirut in a “crawl to Parliament,” demanding the formation of an independent, non-sectarian government that will rescue the country from economic and financial collapse.

Meanwhile, three marches in Beirut set off simultaneously for Parliament, targeting various public and financial institutions along the way.

One began in Dora, another in Sassine Square and the third in Barbir.

Saturday's clashes are the most serious seen in the past three months of protests.





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