Intense clashes rock Beirut as Hezbollah backers attack protest camps

15 Décembre, 2019, 06:56 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon

They triggered the resignation of the Prime Minister, Saad al-Hariri, but talks to form a new government are deadlocked.

The clashes started when dozens of men, some wearing masks, pelted security forces with stones and threw firecrackers at them on one edge of the protest camp.

The rise in tensions comes as politicians have failed to agree on forming a new government.

The Red Cross and the Lebanese Civil Defense said at least 46 people were injured and transported to hospitals.

Some protesters tried to push through steel barriers blocking the way to the parliament and government buildings.

The violence Saturday started when young men from a neighborhood known as a stronghold for supporters of the Shiite Amal and Hezbollah groups attacked the epicenter of anti-government protests, chanting "Shiite, Shiite".

The afternoon clashes erupted when young counter-protesters from an area of the capital dominated by the powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah and fellow Shiite movement Amal tried to raid a key anti-government protest camp in Martyrs' Square.

It wasn't clear who the attackers were but the parliament speaker is the head of the Shiite Amal group.

The protesters have demanded a government made up exclusively of experts not affiliated to the country's traditional political parties, but analysts have warned this could be a tall order.

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The names of various potential candidates have been circulated in recent weeks, but the Sunni Muslim establishment on Sunday threw their support behind Hariri returning.

Still, clashes have become more frequent in recent weeks, with supporters of Hezbollah and Amal attacking protest camps in several cities in counter-demonstrations. Dozens of protesters had travelled to Beirut from the northern city of Tripoli to take part in the parliament rally. Security forces chased protesters around central Beirut, some firing rubber bullets and several volleys of tear gas from armored vehicles.

The National News Agency reported that some shop windows in the commercial part of central Beirut were smashed by vandals.

Earlier this week, some lobbed firecrackers and burned a tent in the protest camp hosting discussions. On Saturday, critics of the attack organized a rally in support of the Hub, but cancelled it shortly before the attempted attack.

A preacher from the neighborhood mosque appealed to the men who attempted the attack to retreat.

Nasrallah said neither a government that only includes Hezbollah and its allies, nor one that only comprises its rivals, could pull the country from a crisis that "requires that everyone stand together".

Nasrallah's speech came a day after FPM leader and Aoun's son-in-law Gebran Bassil said the party would not join a new government under the terms set by Hariri, but would not obstruct the formation of a new cabinet.

Nasrallah said he would support a coalition government with "the widest possible representation" that did not exclude any of the major parties, adding that it could even be headed by Hariri.

Hassan Nasrallah said that the "anger" of some of his movement's members had gone "out of control" but stressed it had been quickly contained.

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