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24 Nov 2019 | 08:07 PM UTC

Lebanon: Protesters clash with security forces ahead of general strike November 25 /update 37

Protesters clash with security forces in Beirut ahead of a general strike planned for November 25; heightened security presence and associated disruptions expected

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LBN

Event

Activists have called for a general strike on Monday, November 25, to demand the formation of a technocratic government. Several private and public educational institutions declared the cancelation of all classes on Monday during the general strike.

Opposition protesters reportedly clashed with Hezbollah and Amal supporters in central Beirut in the night (local time) of Sunday, November 24, through to the early hours on Monday. Opposition demonstrators used concrete obstacles to block the Ring bridge in the capital. At approximately 03:00 on Monday, army solders and riot police formed a barrier between the opposition activists and the pro-Hezbollah and Amal protesters, and used tear gas to disperse them. As of 04:00, it is unclear if any participants were injured.

Opposition activists on Sunday had also blocked key roads in Metn, Tripoli, and Bekaa. In Aaoukar (Metn), several hundred people had gathered near the US embassy to protest against US intervention in the country.

Heightened security measures and disruptions to transportation and businesses are to be expected in major urban centers in the coming hours and days during the general strike and as protests continue. Clashes between protesters and between protesters and security forces cannot be ruled out.

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 in this context.

Advice

Individuals in Lebanon are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid all protests and demonstrations as a precaution, anticipate transportation and business disruptions, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities.