Overnight clashes in northern Lebanon between security forces and demonstrators angered by a coronavirus lockdown injured at least 45 people, the Lebanese Red Cross said yesterday.
At least nine of the injured were treated in hospital following rolling scuffles in the main northern city of Tripoli, the Red Cross said.
Protesters lobbed molotov cocktails, fireworks and stones at security forces who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, an AFP correspondent reported.
The Lebanese army said 31 troops were injured in the exchange.
It was not immediately clear how many soldiers were included in the Red Cross toll.
The army said it arrested five people alleged to have “vandalised public and private property, incited riots and attacked security forces”. At least 30 people were injured in similar clashes in Tripoli on Monday night as frustration with tight coronavirus restrictions boiled over.
Tripoli was already one of Lebanon’s poorest areas even before the pandemic piled on new misery to 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.
“I can’t even bring bread home” said Abdullah al-Bahr, a 39-year-old demonstrator. “We’re either going to die of hunger or the coronavirus,” the father of three said.
In other parts of the country on Tuesday night, demonstrators blocked major roads in protest at the coronavirus restrictions.
Last week, authorities extended the lockdown by two weeks, angering day labourers and other vulnerable groups.
A round-the-clock curfew is in force nationwide and grocery shopping is restricted to home deliveries, which are often unavailable in poorer areas.
Lebanon has recorded over 285,000 coronavirus cases and more than 2,470 deaths since the pandemic began.
The outbreak has compounded an economic crisis that has seen more than half of the population fall below the poverty line, with a quarter living in extreme poverty.
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 Tuesday that three-quarters of the population of more than 6mn need financial assistance.
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