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Sunday, 08 December 2019

Lebanese army attempting to open main roads; vows to protect peaceful protesters

Hundreds of thousands of people have flooded the streets for nearly a week, furious at a political class they accuse of pushing the economy to the point of collapse

Haitham Nouri , Wednesday 23 Oct 2019
Lebanon Protests
Anti-government protesters are surrounded by Lebanese army soldiers during a demonstration in the town of Jal el-Dib north of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. (AFP)
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The Lebanese army has said that it will exert efforts to open major roads blocked by protesters over the past several days, but has also vowed to protect peaceful demonstrators from provocateurs, according to the official Lebanese news agency.

Security forces are trying to peacefully persuade protesters to reopen roads across Lebanon but will not use force if they refuse, a security source told Reuters as the country remains paralysed by anti-government demonstrations.

Hundreds of thousands of people have flooded the streets for nearly a week, furious at a political class they accuse of pushing the economy to the point of collapse.

Meanwhile, hundreds of army soldiers have been deployed in Beirut's neighbourhoods and in the northern city of Tripoli, and an army bulldozer has arrived to remove cars parked in the middle of the road, En Nahar newspaper said on Wednesday.

Protesters have shown resistance, laying down on the ground to thwart any attempt to reopen the roads.

The protesters have been blocking highways as part of the countrywide demonstrations that have united Lebanese from across the sectarian spectrum. The protests have not been led by any of the parties that have long dominated politics.

Some major roads were reopened on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, but others remained blocked.

The security source told Reuters that authorities are attempting to convince protesters to open major roads.

"If they are convinced, so be it. If they are not, the roads will remain closed," the source said to Reuters, adding that some roads have been reopened in the south.

"We will not clash with the protesters and make a problem on the ground," the source stressed.

Meanwhile, the Army Command stressed its full solidarity with the people’s lawful demands, encouraging them to cooperate with security forces to facilitate citizens’ affairs, according to the official National News Agency.

The Lebanese Army Command’s Guidance Directorate issued a communiqué last Saturday urging all citizens with legitimate demands related to their livelihood and dignity to express their grievances in a peaceful manner and not to allow any encroachment on public and private property.

Late on Monday, soldiers skirmished in Beirut with young men on motorcycles holding the flags of the powerful Shia movements Hezbollah and Amal. Both parties denied any role in the incidents.

Banks and schools remained shut on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri's government announced an emergency reform package on Monday to try to defuse the anger of protesters demanding the government resigns and also to steer the heavily indebted state away from a looming financial crisis.

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