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Police, protesters in street battle in Lebanon


The protests resumed on Thursday, shortly after Omar Taibi, who was shot by security forces on Wednesday night, was laid to rest.


Published: Thu 28 Jan 2021, 9:19 PM

Lebanese security forces fired volleys of tear gas at rock-throwing youth in the northern city of Tripoli on Thursday amid outrage over the death of a 30-year-old protester after violent confrontations with security forces the previous day.

The scope of the protests in Tripoli, now in their fourth day, appeared to be widening even as the nation grapples with both the pandemic and the worst economic crisis in Lebanon’s history.

The protests resumed on Thursday, shortly after Omar Taibi, who was shot by security forces on Wednesday night, was laid to rest. More than 220 others were injured in the clashes as frustrations boiled over amid deteriorating living conditions and strict coronavirus lockdown measures.

The violence marks a serious escalation in demonstrations denouncing the extended shutdown that exacerbated already dire conditions amid the unprecedented economic and financial crisis. Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city and the most impoverished, has been a centre for demonstrations and rioting against Lebanon’s political class.

Dozens of young men have been taking part in the nightly protests, throwing rocks at security forces and in some cases torching vehicles. On Wednesday, protesters repeatedly tried to break into the municipal building. Some lobbed hand grenades at security forces, who responded with water cannons, volleys of tear gas and finally, live ammunition.

The National News Agency said 226 people were injured in the confrontations, including 26 policemen. Taibi, who was hit by a bullet, died of his wounds on Thursday, it said.

Earlier on Thursday morning, security forces brought reinforcements and put up barbed wire around the municipal building, known as the Serail. Two torched cars stood nearby. Shops and cafes were open and traffic appeared normal on the streets in clear defiance of the government’s lockdown measures.

Maher Atiyeh, a 39-year-old cafeteria employee, stood looking at the wreckage of his torched car. He said as the rioting picked up Wednesday night, police called and asked him to come and remove his car, parked near the municipal building.

“I didn’t make it in time, they burned my car,” he said, wearing a red baseball cap and red mask.

Atiyeh said there’s real suffering in Tripoli, the poverty is real, but added he was against violence. “They should protest peacefully, not like this. The country is destroyed, people are hungry and such violence only hurts us more,” he said.


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