Scores injured in third night of clashes in Lebanon’s Tripoli

Scores injured in third night of clashes in Lebanon’s Tripoli
At least 23 people have been injured as clashes between security forces and anti-lockdown protesters continued in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.
3 min read
Security forces fired tear gas at protesters [AFP]

A third night of clashes raged on Wednesday in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli between security forces and demonstrators angered by a coronavirus lockdown and a severe economic crisis.

Protesters threw petrol bombs and stones towards security forces, who responded with tear gas, an AFP correspondent said.

Activists also reported that security forces had fired rubber bullets at protesters.

The Lebanese Red Cross said at least 23 people had been injured in the early evening, including one who was taken to hospital.

"We are here to demand food. People are hungry," said 20-year-old protester Mohammed Ezzedine. "It's time for people to take to the streets."

Tripoli was already one of Lebanon's poorest areas before the novel coronavirus pandemic piled new misery onto a chronic economic crisis.

Many of its residents have been left without an income since Lebanon imposed a full lockdown earlier this month in a bid to stem a surge in Covid-19 cases and prevent its hospitals being overwhelmed.

A round-the-clock curfew is in force nationwide and grocery shopping is restricted to home deliveries, which are often unavailable in poorer areas.

Read more: How Tripoli emerged as the epicentre of Lebanon's national crisis

Authorities have extended the lockdown by two weeks to February 8.

Protesters tried to enter a government building, while others gathered in the city's central Al-Nour Square, the scene of mass demonstrations against the political class that began in late 2019.

"We have made the decision to continue our action, whatever the cost... because we have nothing left to lose," said a 25-year-old protester wearing a balaclava.

'Wretched conditions'

"We live in wretched conditions. I've knocked on every door but can't find work," he said.

Protesters in other parts of the country also blocked major roads on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

Night-time clashes in Tripoli between security forces and demonstrators injured at least 45 people on Tuesday and 30 on Monday, the Lebanese Red Cross said.

The army said 31 soldiers were hurt in Tuesday night's exchange. It was not immediately clear how many soldiers were included in the Red Cross toll.

Lebanon has recorded over 289,000 coronavirus cases and more than 2,500 deaths since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

The surge in infections comes on top of the country's worst economic crisis since its 15-year civil war ended in 1990.

Half of Lebanon's population is now poor, and almost a quarter live in extreme poverty, the United Nations says.

Around half of the workforce lives off daily wages, the labour ministry estimates.

The authorities say they have started disbursing 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 need financial assistance.

Coming after months of political crisis and mass anti-government demonstrations, the country's Covid-19 response is being overseen by a caretaker administration.

The previous government had resigned after a massive explosion of ammonium nitrate fertiliser at Beirut's port last summer killed 200 people, injured thousands, and ravaged large parts of the capital.

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