'Street has won': Lebanon protesters celebrate

Tripoli (Lebanon) (AFP) –


With raised fists, traditional "dabkeh" dances and broad smiles, thousands of Lebanese celebrated Prime Minister Saad Hariri's offer to resign Tuesday after nearly two weeks of unprecedented protests.

Across Lebanon, demonstrators filled main squares in their droves, waving Lebanese flags and celebrating their first major win since the protest movement was launched on October 17.

The northern city of Tripoli -- a stronghold of Hariri's Future Movement -- saw one of the largest turnouts, with hundreds releasing red, white and green balloons -- the colours of the Lebanese flag.

"Our revolution is not over," they chanted, after Hariri said he was submitting his government's resignation in response to pressure from the street.

"What happened today is a big achievement for the revolution," said Mohammad, 32.

The main protest square in Tripoli has gained national renown as the home of protest raves, following days of impromptu concerts.

On Tuesday, some protesters even called on members of Hariri's Future Movement to join in the festivities.

Demonstrators distributed traditional Arabic sweets, coffee and corn on the cob, while some hailed the prime minister's "brave" move.

But many said their work was unfinished.

"This resignation is welcome but it's not enough, it's only one part of a larger list of demands," said Tima Samir, a 35-year-old mother of two.

"We want the entire system to change and we'll stay on the streets until all our demands are met."

Protesters have stayed mobilised from the outset, insisting on a complete overhaul of Lebanon's sectarian-based system of government.

Their movement has been relatively incident-free, despite tensions with the armed forces and attempts by government loyalists to stage counter-demonstrations.

- 'This joy is unusual' -

The southern city of Sidon, from where the Hariri family hails, was filled with a festival atmosphere after the premier's speech.

Young men lifted each other on their shoulders, as demonstrators danced dabkeh and pounded on drums.

"As of this moment, we can say the street has won," said Atef al-Abreeq. "The street has forced the government to resign."

Ahed Madi said he had never witnessed such scenes in his hometown.

"Sidon usually celebrates when a government is formed. This is the first time Sidon celebrates the government's resignation," he told AFP.

At the main protest site in central Beirut, turnout was low during Hariri's announcement, which came shortly after counter-demonstrators had torched tents and attacked protesters.

But those who remained exchanged hugs and kisses, the ground around them littered with the charred remains of burnt tents.

"The next step is the formation of a transitional government comprising of independents," said Gil Samaha as jubilant protesters started to stream back in.