The Fiji Times

Forces, protesters clash in Beirut

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BEIRUT - Cat-and-mouse clashes between Lebanon’s security forces and protesters wounded scores of people on a night of violence that rocked central Beirut on Saturday.

Riot police fired tear gas and water cannon, chasing protesters armed with tree branches and sign posts in a commercial district near Lebanon’s parliament.

Crowds spilled on to the streets this week after a lull in largely peaceful protests which broke out in October. They are furious at a ruling elite that has steered the country towards its worst economic crisis in decades.

Police beatings and arrests in recent days have alarmed human rights groups and sparked fears among activists of a move to crush the dissent.

Smoke billowed out of tear gas canisters encircling protesters as ambulances sped through the streets of the capital. Witnesses said security forces also fired rubber bullets.

The Lebanese Red Cross said more than 100 people had been treated for injuries, with at least 65 others taken to hospital on both sides.

A security source said at least 15 protesters had been detained.

President Michel Aoun ordered the army and security commanders to restore calm.

Saad al-Hariri, who resigned as premier in October, said the violence threatened civil peace.

“It is an insane, suspicious and rejected scene,” he tweeted.

After the unrest pushed Mr Hariri to quit, feuding politician­s have failed to agree on a new cabinet or rescue plan. The Lebanese pound has lost nearly half its value, dollar shortages have driven up prices and confidence in the banks has collapsed.

 ?? Picture: REUTERS ?? Demonstrat­ors are hit by water canon during a protest against a ruling elite accused of steering Lebanon towards economic crisis in Beirut, Lebanon.
Picture: REUTERS Demonstrat­ors are hit by water canon during a protest against a ruling elite accused of steering Lebanon towards economic crisis in Beirut, Lebanon.
 ?? Picture: REUTERS ?? The two black boxes recovered from the crashed Ukrainian airliner, Boeing 737-800.
Picture: REUTERS The two black boxes recovered from the crashed Ukrainian airliner, Boeing 737-800.
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