Lebanon protesters defiant despite Hezbollah attack
November 25 2019 07:07 PM
Lebanese anti-government protesters burn tyres to block the road leading to the southern entrance of
Lebanese anti-government protesters burn tyres to block the road leading to the southern entrance of the northern port city of Tripoli


Security forces cleared road blocks across Lebanon Monday, facing off against protesters who took to the streets despite being attacked overnight by supporters of Hezbollah and Amal.
Demonstrators demanding a complete government overhaul have stayed mobilised since protests began on October 17, but a bitterly divided political class has yet to find a way out of the crisis.
Frustrated by the stalemate, protesters had called for road blocks and a general strike on Monday, but an attack by supporters of allied parties Hezbollah and Amal on Sunday night weakened the turnout.
Political parties "are trying to instill fear in us as a people, so we don't progress and stay at home," said Dany Ayyash, 21, who was blocking a key road in Beirut's Hamra district.
"This is what happened today. There was supposed to be a general strike and yet the people are still at home sleeping."
At around midnight on Sunday, backers of Hezbollah and Amal attacked demonstrators at a flyover near the capital's main protest camp.
Brandishing party flags, they hurled stones at peaceful demonstrators and taunted them with insults as riot police deployed to contain the violence.
The attackers also ravaged a nearby encampment, tearing down tents and damaging storefronts in their most serious assault on protesters so far.
At least 10 demonstrators were wounded, civil defence said, without specifying the extent of their injuries.
UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis, called for restraint.
"I urge all Lebanese political forces to control their supporters, to avoid using the national protests for pursuing their political agenda," he said on Twitter.
The state-run National News Agency said authorities have launched an investigation into the incident.
Parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who heads the Amal Movement, called on security forces to keep roads open to avoid "civil strife".
On Monday morning, scattered stones, shattered glass and the mangled remains of tents littered the ground in the main Beirut protest camp at Martyrs' Square. Around it car windows had been smashed with rocks.
But the demonstrators said they would not give up.
"The attack gave us all -- at least the ones here right now -- a sense of determination," Ayyash said.
Nearby, security forces deployed along the road after shoving aside demonstrators who had been sitting on the ground.
Salim Mourad, a 31-year-old protester, showed AFP his torn collar, saying riot police dragged him by his shirt.
"We don't want violence," he said.
Security forces also deployed across main arteries in north and east Lebanon Monday, removing barricades that had been raised by demonstrators.
The army said it arrested nine people north of Beirut at dawn after they tried to block roads using burning petrol and shattered glass.
It also arrested four other "rioters", releasing three shortly afterwards.
The security forces have come under fresh criticism following Sunday's attack, with protesters accusing them of being lax with Hezbollah and Amal supporters, most of whom were allowed to walk away.
"The thugs throw stones and insult security forces but they don't confront them," said Elie, 24, who was among the protesters attacked.
"They don't arrest them the way they arrest us."
Such criticism prompted Interior Minister Raya al-Hasan to respond by saying the army and police remain the only "guarantors of the country's stability".
Political leaders have failed to select a new government nearly one month since Prime Minister Saad Hariri's cabinet resigned, bowing to popular pressure.
President Michel Aoun, whose powers include initiating parliamentary consultations to appoint a new premier, said he was open to a government that would include technocrats and representatives of the popular movement -- both key demands of the protesters.
But demonstrators say they reject any government that would also include representatives of established political parties.
The United States, France, the World Bank, and credit rating agencies have all urged officials to accelerate cabinet formation, warning of a deteriorating economic and political crisis.
In the latest diplomatic push, senior British foreign office official Richard Moore was in Lebanon on Monday.
He would "underline the urgent need to form a government" during meetings with the president, prime minister, foreign minister, the speaker and the army chief, the British embassy said in a statement.
"The people of Lebanon have been clear in their demand for improved governance, and they should be heard," Moore, the director general for political affairs, was quoted as saying.

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