Lebanon’s capital Beirut has been left reeling after nearly 400 people were injured in the biggest toll of casualties since anti-government protests erupted more than three months ago.
Demonstrators flung rocks at security forces who fired tear gas and water cannons to push back crowds that descended on the streets near parliament on Sunday.
President Michel Aoun has remained defiant in the face of the protesters’ repeated demands for a complete overhaul of the country’s sectarian political system.
Yet protesters show no sign of stopping even after Saturdays’s several-hour long confrontation which has been deemed the worst night of violence since the largely peaceful rallies erupted on October 17.
— Hassan Chamoun (@HassanChamoun) January 18, 2020
“We’re not scared. This is all for our future and our children,” shoemaker Bassam Taleb said.
“The country is frozen. The state is not doing a thing; they’re a bunch of thieves. And if you have money in the bank, you can’t even get a hundred dollars out,” Mr Taleb said.
Saturday’s clashes left at least 377 people wounded on both sides, according to casualty tolls from the Lebanese Red Cross and Civil Defence. Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces said 142 police were injured.
Crowds yelled “revolution” as they flocked back to the street on Sunday.
Young men pelted security forces with stones. Some tried to climb over barbed wire and fencing to storm a heavily barricaded part of central Beirut that includes parliament. One man jabbed police with a pole across the barriers.
Security forces urged people to remain calm or it would be forced to repel them.
But not even the resignation of prime minster Saad al-Hariri on October 29 could quell protests as Lebanese politicians have failed to agree on a new government or economic rescue plan since then.
As the country sinks deeper into economic crisis, anger has boiled over at rulers who have dominated since the 1975-1990 civil war.
The protesters blame politicians for widespread corruption and mismanagement in a country that has accumulated one of the largest debt ratios in the world.
People have turned their ire on the banks – which have curbed access to savings – with some smashing the facade of the banking association on Saturday night.
The Lebanese pound has lost nearly half its value, dollar shortages have driven up prices and confidence in the banking system has collapsed.