Angry protesters in the country’s “ poorest city ” denounce the application of a strict coronavirus lockdown with little help from authorities.
Lebanon’s second city, Tripoli, has seen its third consecutive night of anger and riots protests, with hundreds taking to the streets to denounce harsh living conditions and meager government assistance during a strict lockdown of the coronavirus.
Security forces used water cannons on Wednesday in an attempt to disperse the crowds who were apparently trying to break into an official building near the central Al Nour square in the northern city.
The square became a center of protest action during Lebanon’s October 2019 uprising against the country’s entrenched political class, whose corruption and mismanagement drove Lebanon into a devastating financial crisis.
The latest protests come nearly three weeks after a nationwide coronavirus lockdown that aims to prevent the country’s health sector from collapsing amid a significant increase in the number of new cases and the number of deaths linked to COVID. The small Mediterranean country of about six million people has so far recorded more than 285,000 cases and 2,477 deaths, with a record 73 deaths on Tuesday.
Protesters have started to converge in Tripoli’s main square – people say they can’t cope with the coronavirus lockdown without government economic support #Lebanon – there were two nights of violence pic.twitter.com/vJSlyPzCPb
– Zeina Khodr (@ZeinakhodrAljaz) January 27, 2021
But the heavy lockdown, which forces nearly all businesses to close and almost everyone to stay at home, has been rolled out without economic support, in a country where more than half of the population is poor.
“People are angry and say they can no longer survive … or make ends meet,” said Zeina Khodr of Al Jazeera, reporting from Tripoli, adding that protesters in “the poorest city in Lebanon” denounced the lockdown as “an additional burden on their struggle.” “.
“Many work in the informal sector, which means they don’t get any government support,” Khodr said.
At least 47 civilians have been injured since the protests began on Monday evening, at least a dozen of whom had to be hospitalized, according to figures from the Lebanese Red Cross.
Security forces and the Lebanese army said dozens of their operatives were also injured, but did not provide further details.
Two separate videos of Wednesday’s protests appear to show petrol bombs thrown by rioters at the Tripoli Serail, an official building, as some in the crowd cheer. Gasoline bombs were also thrown at security forces on previous nights.
The security forces, meanwhile, used large amounts of tear gas and rubber bullets against the crowd.
Smaller groups of protesters staged their own protests across the country on Tuesday and Wednesday, including in the capital, Beirut, in the eastern Bekaa Valley and in southern Jiyeh and Tire.
The current lockdown is expected to remain in place until February 8.
Authorities plan to start a vaccination campaign by mid-February, interim health minister Hamad Hasan saying on Wednesday they aimed to vaccinate 80% of the population by the end of the year.
With a report by Timour Azhari in Beirut, Lebanon