Published: Mon, January 20, 2020
Global News | By Blake Casey

Hundreds wounded in weekend of Lebanon clashes

Hundreds wounded in weekend of Lebanon clashes

Lebanese politicians have failed to agree on a new government or economic rescue plan since Saad al-Hariri quit as prime minister in October, prompted by the protests which have been fuelled by outrage at rampant state corruption and bad governance.

Sunday's confrontation escalated near parliament a day after more than 370 people were wounded in the biggest casualty toll since the protests began.

A demonstrator jabbed at police with a pole across the barriers in a heavily barricaded part of central Beirut that includes parliament.

For a second night in a row, dozens of people started lobbing stones at police behind a metal barricade blocking a road to parliament, crying "revolution, revolution".

Since then, the country's leaders have been dragging their feet on forming a new government.

The Lebanese Red Cross said it had treated 220 people who were wounded on both sides on Saturday night, taking 80 of them to hospital.

There were nine hours of street battles with security forces Saturday as some protesters tried to scale the barriers.

Parts of central Beirut were choked in teargas and swarmed by riot police as street battles raged for almost nine hours, with protesters throwing flares, stones and branches at security forces.

President Michel Aoun called for a "security meeting" on Monday with the interior and defence ministers to discuss the crisis, NNA reported.

Security forces said they had opened a probe after a video shared online showed police beating up people believed to be protesters as they were brought to a Beirut police station.

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It accused the riot police on Saturday of "launching tear gas canisters at protesters' heads, firing rubber bullets in their eyes and attacking people at hospitals and a mosque". "They think I'm at work", Monia said. "And if you have money in the bank, you can't even get a hundred dollars out".

Protesters have also turned their anger on the banks - which have curbed access to savings - with some smashing the facade of the banking association on Saturday night.

The authorities must act quickly "to end this culture of impunity for police abuse", he said.

"There was no justification for the brutal use of force unleashed by Lebanon's riot police against largely peaceful demonstrators in downtown Beirut", said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at HRW.

"Another day without a government, another night of violence and clashes", United Nations envoy to Lebanon Jan Kubis said on Twitter.

Adding to the crisis, Lebanon has been without a government since Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned October 29, meeting a key demand of the protesters.

"They are using the old method to form the government ... so it's not acceptable", protester Jil Samaha told the Associated Press.

Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab had been expected to announce an 18-member Cabinet on Friday, but last minute disputes among political factions scuttled his latest attempt.

Demonstrators say the Lebanese political elite has ignored their calls for forming an independent government to tackle the deepening crisis.

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