BEIRUT: Thousands of troops were on Lebanon’s streets Monday as the country prepared to ring in 2019.
A huge party was held in central Beirut for the second consecutive year, attracting people from the city’s neighborhoods and surrounding districts, and there were tough security measures in place from the military.
The Defense Ministry suspended issuing permits for carrying firearms on all Lebanese territory, and 13,000 military personnel were deployed to protect tourists, places of worship and commercial facilities, as well as manage traffic congestion.
Security forces reiterated their call for people to refrain from the deadly tradition of celebratory gunfire, saying that those carrying out this act would face prosecution.
Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, speaking at an event in the capital, said he hoped a new government would be formed in 2019.
The elections were in May 2018.
“I want the Lebanese to rejoice so that we turn a new page and think of the country and the people,” he said. “I hope the celebration meets the aspirations of the Lebanese people, and especially the people of Beirut.”
Economic bodies stressed the need to form a government at the beginning of 2019 and expressed their regret for the current turmoil, amid calls from social media users for a general strike.
The country’s finance minister had earlier warned that Lebanon was entering a financial crisis.
“The repercussions and consequences of the economic crisis today are at their highest. “The crisis today has started to transform into a financial crisis from an economic crisis,” said Ali Hassan Khalil late on Saturday, according to Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency.
“We hope it will not become a monetary crisis,” he said.
Grocery shops in Beirut were packed, a sign that some families were preparing to spend New Year’s Eve at home, with prices for festivities skyrocketing to as much as $1,500 per person.