Reports have emerged that protesters in Beirut gathered on Wednesday, December 11, outside the French embassy in efforts to call on the country to return alleged stolen funds and ask it to revoke any financial support to the current regime. The protest was held in parallel to a government meeting in Paris regarding the current situation in Lebanon, where Lebanese protesters gathered as well.
Other more disruptive protests were also reported near central Beirut at the Khandak al-Ghamik entrance, where protesters lit tire fires and threw stones at security forces. Security later used tear gas to disperse the crowds. The group later convened at the Place Riad el-Solh, where they again clashed with security.
Additional protests are to be expected nationwide, and especially in Beirut, over the coming days. Heightened security measures and disruptions to transportation and businesses are to be expected in major urban centers as protests continue. Clashes between protesters and between protesters and security forces cannot be ruled out.
On October 16-17, the government approved tax hikes on tobacco products as part of its 2020 federal budget, as well as a daily tax on messages and calls done via the WhatsApp mobile phone messenger application. The announcement sparked mass protests across the country on October 17, forcing the government to revoke the tax proposal. Since then, protests have evolved calling for the resignation of the government and have continued despite an emergency reform package announced by Prime Minister Saad Hariri on October 21. On October 29, Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation. Former finance minister, Mohammad Safadi, who was expected to be appointed as Hariri's successor, declined on November 17, stating the difficulties to form a legitimate cabinet.
Individuals in Lebanon are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid all protests and demonstrations, anticipate transportation and business disruptions, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities.