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15 Dec 2019 | 03:34 PM UTC

Lebanon: Clashes reported in Beirut December 15 /update 50

Anti-government protesters clash with security forces in Beirut December 15; heightened security presence and associated disruptions expected

security
transportation
LBN

Event

Clashes erupted in Beirut on Sunday, December 15, as thousands of protesters rallied outside the Lebanese parliament building for a second consecutive day. Security forces reportedly fired tear gas and rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse demonstrators. In Aakkar, protesters stormed and set fire to the offices of Saad Hariri's Future Movement and Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement. According to the Red Cross, at least 130 people were wounded in overnight clashes between Saturday, December 14, and Sunday.

Similar opposition protests and clashes between demonstrators and police are possible in Beirut and other Lebanese cities over the near term. Transportation and business disruptions are to be expected near demonstration sites.

Context

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.

Advice

Individuals in Beirut, and in Lebanon more generally, are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid all protests and demonstrations, anticipate transportation and business disruptions near demonstration sites, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities.