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29 Jan 2020 | 04:22 AM UTC

Lebanon: Protests continue amid threats of partial bank closures January 28 /update 84

Anti-government protests continue in Beirut, other cities, as banks potentially close on Saturdays January 28; avoid all protests

security
transportation
LBN

Event

Protests continued in the afternoon and evening (local time) on Tuesday, January 28, in Beirut at the Place des Martyrs, just hours after security forces cleared barriers that same day from morning protests and in areas where protester camps have been set up. Additional roadblocks were erected during the evening protests, and participants marched towards the al-Amine Mosque, where dumpsters and concrete blocks were placed.

The Association of Banks of Lebanon (ABL) held a meeting and discussed the possibility of closing banks on Saturdays due to the ongoing economic and financial crisis that the country is facing. The situation has brought clients to banks with the intention of withdrawing large sums of cash, which drives further economic instability. Banks have seen an array of confrontation between clients and bank staff, at times prompting violent clashes, due to informal banking restrictions which limit cash withdrawals and other operations. Several banks have cited their favorability to the proposal, though has not yet been formally adopted. Should the measure be adopted, the ABL states it would be temporary, "until the situation returns to a semblance of normalcy."

Anti-government protests are expected to continue on Wednesday, January 29, as well as in the coming days. Protests are also likely if banks announce Saturday closures. Significant transportation and commercial disruptions are to be expected in protest-affected areas over the coming days, and a heightened security presence is to be anticipated in Beirut over the near term. Further clashes between security forces and demonstrators cannot be ruled out.

Context

Over 540 people were wounded during fighting between protesters and security forces across Lebanon on Saturday, January 18, and Sunday, January 19.

Mass protests originally broke out on October 17, 2019, after the government approved tax hikes on tobacco products and a daily tax on messages and calls done via the WhatsApp mobile phone messenger application. The protests forced the government to revoke the tax proposal and since then the demands evolved into calling for the resignation of the government. On October 29, Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation, and on January 21, his successor former education minister Hassan Diab, was appointed.

Advice

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