On Thursday, April 16, anti-government protesters gathered in Tripoli, Sidon, and the capital Beirut to protest poor socioeconomic conditions and the government's alleged poor handling of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The activists continued to gather and demonstrate despite a ban on public gatherings amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Reports suggest that the largest gathering took place at Al-Nour Square in Tripoli during evening hours (local time) and that Thursday's protests were sparked following an announcement that as of Monday, April 20, Lebanese bakers will only sell bread at bakeries due to costs. This decision was made following a disagreement between the Ministry of Economy and Trade and members of the Union of Bakery Owners over the cost of bread. According to reports on social media, security forces intervened to forcibly disperse demonstrators.
According to local media reports, similar anti-government protests took place on Tuesday, April 14, in Tripoli outside of a government meeting at Rachid Karami International Fair. There were no immediate reports of clashes or arrests. Further associated demonstrations and gatherings are expected in the near term.
Mass protests originally broke out in Lebanon on October 17, 2019, after the Lebanese 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 demands have since evolved into calls for the resignation of the government. On October 29, Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation, and on January 21, former education minister Hassan Diab was appointed as his successor.
Individuals in Lebanon are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid demonstrations, anticipate a heightened security presence near protest sites, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities.