Clashes over lockdowns, inequality escalate in Lebanon’s Tripoli after protester's death
A man was killed in the Lebanese city of Tripoli on Thursday in clashes between security forces and protesters angry over a strict lockdown that has cut off livelihoods in a collapsing economy.
Omar Taybah, 30, was hit by a bullet overnight, according to a local hospital that treated him. Dozens marched at his funeral during the day.
Witnesses and local media said police had fired live bullets as protesters tried to storm the northern city’s government building. Scores of people were wounded.
Security forces said they fired live rounds to disperse rioters who set the building’s guard room on fire and ripped out a gate. The violence “led to the fall of a victim,” the statement said without naming Taybah.
People poured back into Tripoli’s main square later on Thursday.
Police fired tear gas at protesters hurling Molotov cocktails. Flames engulfed the municipality as it caught fire just before midnight, with plumes of grey smoke billowing out of the windows.
Aid workers warn the lockdown is piling extra hardship on the poor, now more than half the population, with little government aid.
“People are tired. There’s poverty, misery, lockdown and there’s no work. ... Our problem is the politicians,” said Samir Agha at the protest overnight.
A currency crash has triggered fears of rising hunger. Still, Lebanese leaders have yet to launch a rescue plan or enact reforms to unlock aid, prompting rebuke including from foreign donors.
Human Rights Watch called for an investigation into Thursday’s death. “The government neglected the needs of Tripoli’s people and used brute force ... when they demanded a better life,” researcher Aya Majzoub said.
A young man died today due to injuries he sustained in last night's clashes in Tripoli, #Lebanon. I have no words to express the shock, anger, sadness— Aya Majzoub (@Aya_Majzoub) January 28, 2021
The govt neglected the needs of Tripoli's ppl & used brute force to silence them when they dared demand a better life. #عمر_طيبة pic.twitter.com/XBw1fmmrbr
Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces said rioters threw hand grenades, including at a patrol, injuring at least nine officers. They pledged to respond with “full severity and decisiveness.”
Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab has said the coronavirus lockdown was necessary.
Hospitals, fighting some of the region’s highest infection levels, were already struggling with supply shortages due to the liquidity crunch.
Lebanon’s financial meltdown, on a scale it has never seen before, erupted in 2019 into protests against leaders who oversaw decades of state graft.
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