BEIRUT — A demonstration that began late Wednesday morning in downtown Beirut turned tense as security forces chased away protesters with tear gas.
Several hundred people had gathered at the call of army retirees, depositors' collectives and some opposition MPs. Meanwhile, in the nearby Parliament building, several committees held a joint meeting.
Local televisions showed demonstrators dispersed by tear gas, some shouting and fleeing the downtown Riad el-Solh Square. The protest had begun in Martyrs Square around 11 a.m. and then moved towards the Parliament building.
Some protesters, including retired military personnel, were seen attempting to cross barbed wire outside the building before police stopped them.
According to AFP, one protestor and one policeman were injured.
A group of military retirees announced they would take part in the protest, alongside the Association of Depositors in Lebanon, which posted a call on Twitter Tuesday.
Forces of Change MP Paula Yaacoubian also posted a video Tuesday urging "every exhausted, bruised and hungry Lebanese" to join the mobilization. "Come down and revolt for your country, for your rights!" she said in a video on Twitter.
Starting from Martyrs Square, the protesters headed to nearby Riad al-Solh Square, close to the Grand Serail where teargas was fired, according to L'Orient Today's reporter.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati met Wednesday afternoon with some of the protesting army retirees, who shared their demands.
'We are prevented from getting health care'
"We have come to ask for what is rightfully ours, what is provided by law," Youssef Abidi, a retired soldier, told L'Orient Today at the protest.
"We are prevented from getting health care, gasoline and other rights. The aid that comes from abroad for the army goes somewhere else," he accused.
Parliament's Finance and Budget, Administration and Justice, Health, Labor and Social Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Public Works committees ended their meetin at around 2 p.m. on Wednesday.
"The session was calm today, unlike the previous ones," Parliament Deputy Speaker Elias Bou Saab said at a press briefing after the joint committee meeting.
"Most of the MPs recognized that this session was successful, even if a solution was not reached at this stage," he added, though did not provide information on the meeting's agenda.
The meeting came a day after sharp exchange rate fluctuations saw the Lebanese lira plummet to LL140,000 against the dollar on the parallel market, prompting some gas stations to close for the day.
"So far, it is not clear who is responsible for the exchange rate fluctuation," Bou Saab said Wednesday. "The government still can't answer us on this point. We are living in chaos regarding this issue."
"It even turned out that some people in Lebanon are still able to transfer money abroad" without restrictions, he added. "These are politicians, but also judges and officers. This data are now confirmed."
"What the banks are doing will not go unpunished," Bou Saab finally warned, after criticizing the sector and questioning the banks' recent strikes.
On Feb. 28, a previous committee meeting turned sour as disagreement broke out between Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) Parliament members and other elected officials.
The FPM MPs criticized the fact that a bill had been transferred to the parliamentary committees without the signatures of all the caretaker cabinet's ministers, some of whom are affiliated with the FPM.
The FPM regularly criticizes caretaker Prime Minister Mikati, accusing him of taking on certain presidential powers amid the executive vacuum and demanding that any decrees issued by the caretaker cabinet be signed by all 23 ministers.
Lebanon has been in the throes of a double executive vacancy for months, with no president since the end of former head of state Michel Aoun's mandate on Oct. 31, and no fully fledged cabinet since May 2022 parliamentary elections. Najib Mikati's outgoing government has been handling affairs in caretaker mode in the meantime.
Additional reporting contributed by Mohammad Yassin