BEIRUT: Clashes broke out on Saturday between Lebanese security forces and Hezbollah supporters in downtown Beirut, some of whom tried to break into a barricaded central district of Lebanon's capital.
Teargas and rubber bullets were fired at the protestors, and the Lebanese Red Cross said several members of the security forces had to be taken to hospital with injuries.
A heavy security presence was put in place central Beirut after the Hezbollah supporters tried to advance to the city’s main central Martyr’s square, and riot police put out calls through loudspeakers for people in he Al-Khandaq Al-Ghamiq area of central Beirut not to gather.
Hundreds of people were gathered as part of a wave of protests that have swept Lebanon since Oct. 17, furious at a ruling elite that steered the country towards its worst economic crisis in decades.
Since the protests pushed Saad Al-Hariri to resign as prime minister in late October, talks between the main parties have been deadlocked over forming a new cabinet.
Lebanon urgently needs a new government to pull it out of the crisis which has also shaken confidence in its banking system. Foreign donors say they will only help after the country gets a cabinet that can enact reforms.
State news agency NNA said the tear gas had made several people faint, while the Lebanese Red Cross said 14 people were injured, six of them badly enough to need taking to hospital.
The unrest erupted from a build-up of anger at the rising cost of living, new tax plans and the record of leaders dominating the country since the 1975-90 civil war. Protesters accuse the political class of milking the state for their own benefit through networks of patronage.