Lebanese protester 'shot dead' in Tripoli as authorities crack down on anti-lockdown demonstrations

Lebanese protester 'shot dead' in Tripoli as authorities crack down on anti-lockdown demonstrations
Lebanon's second city has seen fierce protests against a round-the-clock curfew imposed with little-to-no financial support from the government.
3 min read
28 January, 2021
Omar Tayba was reportedly shot in the back with live ammunition [Getty]
A Lebanese man died on Thursday of wounds sustained during a fierce police crackdown on anti-lockdown protests in the northern city of Tripoli, state media reported.

The man, identified only as O.T. by the National News Agency, was among more than 220 demonstrators injured during the third night of protests on Wednesday, but who later died of gunshot wounds, according to reports.

Local media reports have identified O.T. as Omar Tayba.

"My brother was in Tripoli watching the protests when he was hit," Ahmed Tayba told AFP. "He was transferred to hospital and died this morning."

The demonstrator was "shot in the back" with live ammunition, the director of local Nini Hospital told Al-Jazeera reporter Timour Azhari.

Tayba underwent emergency surgery before succumbing to his injuries early on Thursday morning, the hospital said in a statement.

Videos shared on social media show thousands of people attending Tayba's funeral on Thursday.

The nightly demonstrations in Tripoli have targeted the Lebanese government over a nationwide coronavirus lockdown, imposed this month with little to no government aid for residents confined to their homes due to a round-the-clock curfew.

Protesters say the restrictive measures are the final nail in the coffin amid already dismal living conditions following a sustained economic crisis. 

The lockdown is set to last until at least 8 February, with grocery shopping only available by delivery - a service not extended to many poor areas.

The protesters are angered by the dire economic situation in Tripoli [Getty]

The financial and political upheaval - made even more severe by the Covid-19 pandemic and August's explosion in Beirut - have hard hit Tripoli.

Poverty was already rife in the northern city, Lebanon's second largest, before the pandemic.

"I am protesting because I have no money," delivery driver Ibrahim Al-Attar told The National. "How are we supposed to make a living during lockdown?"

Police and soldiers fired tear gas, water cannons and rubber  ammunition at protesters who reportedly threw stones and Molotov cocktails at a local government building in Tripoli on Wednesday evening.

Activists say security forces also used live fire against demonstrators who attempted to storm the building.

At least nine security officers were injured during the clashes, the Internal Security Forces said. 

New York-based Human Rights Watch has called for a probe into the protester's death.

"The government neglected the needs of Tripoli's people and used brute force...when they demanded a better life," said HRW researcher Aya Majzoub.

The Tripoli protests come more than a year after nationwide demonstrations forced the resignation of then-Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri in 2019.

The protest movement, during which demonstrators called for a total overhaul of a corrupt and sectarian political elite, was dampened by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Around half of Lebanon's population falls below the poverty line, with a quarter living in extreme poverty.

The government has said it has started distributing monthly payments of 400,000 Lebanese pounds (around $50 at the market rate) to some 230,000 families.

But caretaker social affairs minister Ramzi Musharrafieh acknowledged on Tuesday that three-quarters of the population of more than six million require financial assistance.

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