Lebanon hit by violent protests because of economic hardship

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Protests against growing economic hardship erupted in Tripoli and spread to other Lebanese cities on Tuesday, with banks set ablaze and violence boiling over into a second night.

One demonstrator was killed in riots overnight Monday, according to security and medical sources, as a collapse in the currency, soaring inflation and spiralling unemployment convulse Lebanon, a country in deep financial crisis since October.

Anti government protests damages
A view of the damage outside a bank that was set ablaze by anti-government protesters at Al Nour Square in the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon. EPA-EFE/WAEL HAMZEH

A shutdown to fight the new coronavirus has made matters worse for the economy.

Protesters in the northern city of Tripoli on Tuesday set banks on fire and smashed their facades, prompting the army to fire rubber bullets and tear gas. Demonstrators on Tuesday night piled into a main square while on side streets some threw stones at security forces.

Riots a night earlier left a trail of bank facades charred and cars and ATMs smashed. The violence led to the death of a man in his 20s, according to a security source who said it was not immediately clear who was responsible for his death.

Banks have been a target of people angered by being frozen out of their deposits.

Protesters in the southern city of Sidon chanting “revolution” hurled petrol bombs at a central bank building and set its exterior on fire before smashing the fronts of banks.

In Beirut dozens marched across the city, some wearing medical masks while chanting against the financial system and shouting for more Lebanese to join. Later, crowds hurled stones toward security forces positioned in front of the central bank.

The growing unrest threatens to tip Lebanon into more serious conflict even as Beirut looks to pass an economic rescue plan and enter negotiations with foreign creditors after defaulting on its hefty debt obligations last month.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab urged Lebanese to refrain from violence and said “malicious intentions behind the scenes” were “shaking stability”.

Read more via Reuters

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