Several hundred Lebanese protesters rallied Saturday, June 6 in the center of Beirut to castigate the powerlessness of the government in the face of economic collapse, clashes erupting with supporters of the Shiite movement of Hezbollah.
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This mobilization on the Place des Martyrs was accompanied by skirmishes between demonstrators and the police, who used tear gas. According to the Lebanese Red Cross, forty-eight people were injured, including 37 treated on the spot.
Saturday's rally is the first since authorities began to ease the containment imposed in mid-March to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. Lebanon experienced an unprecedented uprising in October 2019 against the political class accused of corruption and incompetence.
In the evening, according to a security source, shots were fired in the capital between the residents of a Sunni district, bastion of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and a neighboring Shiite district, bastion of the Amal party. The army has deployed and restored calm, the state agency ANI said two wounded.
Several high religious authorities, but also Saad Hariri and Hezbollah, denounced insults against Aisha, the wife of the prophet Muhammad, who were the source of the tensions. The insults sparked anger in Tripoli (north), where protesters threw stones at law enforcement who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Forty-eight people were injured, including 37 treated on the spot, according to the Lebanese Red Cross. AZIZ TAHER / REUTERS
Already during the day, tensions were high in Beirut. Among the protesters, some called for the disarmament of Hezbollah. The issue of Hezbollah weapons is one of the main subjects of contention among the political class. The group is the only faction not to have abandoned its military arsenal at the end of the civil war (1975-1990).
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Heterogeneous groups take part in the demonstrations, advancing a plethora of economic and social grievances, and demanding for some of the anticipated legislative ones.
The issue of Hezbollah's weapons is one of the main issues of contention among the political class. ALI HASHISHO / REUTERS
Near the Place des Martyrs, at the entrance to a street leading to the Parliament, demonstrators who cracked the security forces and ransacked shop windows were dispersed by tear gas.
Triggered on October 17, 2019, the uprising saw some days hundreds of thousands of Lebanese beat the pavement to shout their rage. Since last year, the country continues its economic collapse which is accompanied by a strong depreciation of the Lebanese pound and an explosion of inflation. Unemployment affects more than 35% of the working population, while more than 45% of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the Ministry of Finance.
Despite the breathlessness of the mobilization in recent months, processions of cars marched on certain days in the capital, while clashes in Tripoli pitted demonstrators against the police, killing one person in late April.
Under pressure from the street, a new government was formed at the beginning of the year, with no effect. The authorities adopted an economic recovery plan in late April, and began negotiations on financial aid with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Several hundred Lebanese protesters rallied in central Beirut. ANWAR AMRO / AFP