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Protesters injured by gunfire, security forces by grenades in chaotic Tripoli protests

Protesters injured by gunfire, security forces by grenades in chaotic Tripoli protests

Protesters run from tear gas canisters fired by security forces during ongoing demonstrations Wednesday in Tripoli. (Credit: Fathi al-Masri/AFP)

TRIPOLI/BEIRUT — At least three protesters have been wounded by live bullets and a member of the Internal Security Forces has been critically injured by a grenade during a chaotic night of protests in Tripoli.

For a third night in a row, protesters faced off with security forces in the streets of Tripoli, with demonstrators setting fire to dumpsters and hurling Molotov cocktails, fireworks and rocks at the government serail and at security forces, who responded with tear gas and water cannons to disperse them.

More than 200 people were injured, including at least three protesters hit by bullets. A protester who accompanied one of the injured to the hospital told L’Orient Today he had been hit in the leg and the finger. Observers on the ground had reported that security forces were firing live bullets in the air to disperse the crowds.

Meanwhile, nine members of the Internal Security Forces were injured, one critically, by grenades thrown by protesters, the ISF reported.

Spokespeople for both the Army and the ISF refused to provide information on the incident, including identifying the officers in charge.

Beginning early in the evening, hundreds of protesters had poured into the city’s central Al-Nour Square, as well as surrounding the serail, where at one point they succeeded in breaking the door and then barricaded it with trash cans and other objects.

Security forces posted on top of the building lobbed rocks back into the crowd after protesters threw them and fired tear gas to drive the protesters back.

As protesters continued the assault on the serail and set cars ablaze, security forces fired shots to disperse them. Multiple reports on the ground said they had fired live bullets in the air.

In the aftermath of the violence, one protester appealed to a group of soldiers to stand with the demonstrators, telling them the state considers them expendable.

“To the state, the soldiers have even less value than us, the citizens,” he said.

By the end of the night a total of 226 people had been injured, the NNA reported. A total of 66 wounded people were taken to hospitals and 160 injured people were treated on site by the Lebanese Red Cross and the Emergency and Relief Corps.

Protesters also gathered in other areas, including in the southern cities of Nabatieh and Sur, at various points during the day and blocked streets in Saida and in Taalabaya in the Bekaa.

The protests over the past three days were nominally sparked by anger over the economic effects of the ongoing countrywide lockdown — which, although it has not been strictly enforced in Tripoli, has put an additional strain on already struggling businesses and households — and by the lack of government support to help offset its effects.

But they have become a broader expression of political discontent, reminiscent of the mass protests that occupied Tripoli’s central square for months during the uprising that began on Oct. 17, 2019.

Protesters who spoke to L’Orient Today over the past two days gave a laundry list of grievances, including the general lack of jobs and opportunities in the city and lack of even access to education, as well as the lack of any social support from the government during the lockdown.

A 14-year-old protester who gave his name as Ahmad said Wednesday that he was demonstrating because “I want to go to school, like the other kids do.”

Meanwhile, some have tried to paint the protests as being driven by a political agenda, including Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, who wrote on Twitter Wednesday, “Behind the moves in Tripoli may be parties that want to send political messages, and there may be those who take advantage of the people’s pain.”

Rida Hobblos, a local businessman who owns a building near Al-Nour Square, told L’Orient Today, “It’s true that the hunger is very strong and there is no plan for support during the [lockdown] for the whole area, and people are hungry.” But he said, “There’s a difference between hunger and vandalizing the city and its institutions.”


TRIPOLI/BEIRUT — At least three protesters have been wounded by live bullets and a member of the Internal Security Forces has been critically injured by a grenade during a chaotic night of protests in Tripoli.For a third night in a row, protesters faced off with security forces in the streets of Tripoli, with demonstrators setting fire to dumpsters and hurling Molotov cocktails, fireworks and...