Tensions Remain High

Aug 11, 2020

As of 10 August 2020, tensions remain high in Lebanon, following two consecutive days of protests over the government’s handling of an explosion at the Port of Beirut on 4 August. Four Cabinet ministers have resigned due to pressure from protesters and there are indications that Prime Minister Hassan Diab may resign later in the day.

Large-scale anti-government demonstrations occurred over the weekend of 8-9 August, during which demonstrators clashed with security personnel in central Beirut. On 9 August demonstrators clashed with security forces outside the parliament building. Protesters threw rocks at security forces, who responded by firing tear gas. The previous day, approximately 10,000 protesters gathered in Martyr’s Square and later occupied several government buildings in the city, including those housing the foreign, environment and economy ministries; demonstrators also occupied the Banking Association headquarters. Clashes initially broke out after protesters erected blockades throughout the city, threw stones and attempted to breach a barrier surrounding parliament; police officers responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Protesters breached the Foreign Ministry and briefly occupied the building before security forces forcibly removed them. Demonstrators later breached the economy, environment, and energy and water ministries and occupied those buildings as well, before the military forcibly removed them. According to the Lebanese Red Cross, at least 153 people were treated for injuries at the clash sites, while another 55 were hospitalized. At least one police officer was killed during the clashes after falling down an elevator shaft, according to a police spokesperson; there were no reports of civilian fatalities.

In response to the violent protests, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) amended its travel advice for Beirut, advising against all nonessential travel to the city.

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