Fresh protests are ongoing nationwide, notably in Beirut, as of the morning (local time) on Friday, October 18, following a night of violent protests in the capital and across the country. The movement is to denounce government's newly proposed taxes on various goods including tobacco, gasoline, and some social media services. Two Syrian nationals died in Beirut due to violence associated with the protests and several people were injured.
As of Friday, protesters are marching from downtown Beirut to the Serail and are expected to proceed to the Maison du Centre later on. Severe traffic disruptions were also reported nationwide due to fires and roadblocks initiated by protesters, notably from Batroun to Tripoli and from Olaibé to Jounieh. Burning tyres are also obstructing several roads in Mansouri, Naqoura, Tyr, as well as from Zahrani to Nabatiye, and from Nabatiye to Habouch.
The Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) has announced the closure of all banks on Friday, while the "Ligue des Employés" has called for a general strike in the administration sector. Public and private schools, along with universities, are also expected to remain closed across the country.
A heightened security presence, along with transportation disruptions are expected in Beirut and other cities as tensions remain high. Clashes between protesters and security forces cannot be ruled. Further protests are likely in the coming days.
On October 16, government approved tax hikes on tobacco products as part of its 2020 federal budget. Information Minister Jama Jarrah announced a 20 percent daily fee for messaging app users on October 17, a plan expected to bring in USD 200 million per year. However, the announcement sparked spontaneous protests on October 17, forcing the government to revoke the tax proposal. Protests were notably reported in Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli, Jounieh, Jbeil, and the Bekaa Valley.
Individuals in Lebanon, and particularly in Beirut, are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid all protests and demonstrations as a precaution, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities.