Lebanese rioters set fire to several buildings in the northern city of Tripoli Thursday as outrage over the country’s coronavirus lockdown and inaction of the political class in the face of economic collapse took a more violent turn.

After hours of clashes and following the fires, Lebanese military troops deployed around the city in an effort to quell the rage. Firefighters were battling the flames rising from a historic municipal building, after the rioters set fire to it, two other government buildings and a private university that belongs to a rich businessman and politician from the deeply impoverished city.

The unrelenting protests in Tripoli, now in their fourth day, came as Lebanon grapples with both the pandemic and the worst economic crisis in its history, with only a caretaker government in charge.

Protesters had earlier Thursday pelted with rocks the security forces, who responded with volleys of tear gas.

The protests continued after the burial of Omar Taibi, a 30-year-old who was shot by security forces during protests the night before. More than 220 others were injured in the overnight clashes as frustrations boiled over.

The demonstrators took to the streets to denounce Lebanon’s nearly-one month shutdown that has exacerbated already dire conditions. The confluence of the crises has posed the biggest threat to Lebanon’s stability since the end of its civil war in 1990.

Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city and its most impoverished, has been a center for demonstrations against the country’s political class. Smaller protests were reported Thursday and earlier in the week in Beirut and the eastern Bekaa region.

Even before the crises, almost the entire Tripoli workforce depended on day-to-day income. A September study by CARE International in the city of over 250,000 found that the average household income is 145,000 Lebanese pounds — or less than $20 at the current average black market rate — and 33% of those sampled were unemployed.

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Dozens of young men have been taking part in the nightly protests in Tripoli, throwing rocks at security forces and in some cases, torching vehicles. On Wednesday, protesters repeatedly tried to break into the municipal building. Some lobbed hand grenades at security forces, who responded with water cannons, volleys of tear gas and finally, live ammunition.

The National News Agency said 226 people were injured in the confrontations, including 26 policemen. Taibi, who was hit by a bullet, died of his wounds Thursday, it said.

On Thursday, security forces brought reinforcements and put up barbed wire around the municipal government compound, known as the Serail. Two torched cars stood nearby. Shops and cafes were open and traffic appeared normal on the streets in clear defiance of the government’s lockdown measures.

Before midnight, Lebanese Red Cross said 112 people were injured in the clashes, including six who were hospitalized. The Internal Security Forces said some of the firebombs used by the protesters fell inside the Serail, sparking a fire in a religious court building within the compound. Later, rioters set fire to a nearby historic municipal building, according …read more

Source:: News Headlines


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