Violent clashes during renewed protest actions in Beirut left 450 injured, according to the Red Cross and Civil Defence officials. At least 70 people were injured last Sunday, January 19. Thirty of them were taken to hospitals.
On Saturday (Jan 18), at least 377 people were wounded – both protesters and members of the security forces – according to a toll compiled by AFP from figures provided by the Red Cross and Civil Defence.
The state-run National News Agency said two journalists were hit by rubber bullets, one a cameraman from local television channel Al-Jadeed.
An AFP photographer at the scene said security forces fired rubber bullets at stone-throwing protesters as thick clouds of tear gas covered central Beirut.
On Sunday, local television aired the testimonies of relatives of two young men they said were hit in the eyes by rubber bullets.
Human Rights Watch condemned what it called “the brutal use of force unleashed by Lebanon’s riot police against largely peaceful demonstrators”.
“Riot police showed a blatant disregard for their human rights obligations, instead launching tear gas canisters at protesters’ heads, firing rubber bullets in their eyes and attacking people at hospitals and a mosque,” said its deputy Middle East director Michael Page.
The authorities must act quickly “to end this culture of impunity for police abuse”, he said.
Saturday’s clashes began after dozens of protesters threw stones and plant pots at security forces, and tried to charge police lines near parliament with traffic signs.
The security forces responded with water cannon and thick tear gas.
Protesters had called for a week of “anger” over the political leadership’s failure to form a new government even as the country sinks deeper into a financial crisis.
Security forces said they had opened a probe after a video shared online showed police beating up people believed to be protesters as they were brought to a Beirut police station.
“Another day without a government, another night of violence and clashes,” UN envoy to Lebanon Jan Kubis said on Twitter.
Outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who stepped down on October 29, urged political parties to “stop wasting time”.
“Form a government and pave the way towards political and economic solutions,” he said.
Political factions agreed on December 19 to appoint former education minister Hassan Diab as the new premier but have since squabbled over proposed ministers.
Diab on Sunday evening met President Michel Aoun to discuss the matter.
Protesters have demanded a new government be comprised solely of independent experts, and exclude all established political parties.
The World Bank has warned the poverty rate in Lebanon could rise from a third to half of the population if the political crisis is not resolved soon. (Source: CNA)