Almost 400 wounded in Lebanon clashes

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Anti-government protesters attempt to break through the security barrier in the central downtown district of Beirut near the parliament headquarters during clashes with security forces on January 18, 2020. (AFP)
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Anti-government protesters clash with the riot police, during a protest at a road leading to the parliament building in Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. Riot police fired tears gas and sprayed protesters with water cannons near parliament building to disperse thousands of people. (AP)
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Anti-government protesters clash with the riot police, during a protest at a road leading to the parliament building in Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. Riot police fired tears gas and sprayed protesters with water cannons near parliament building to disperse thousands of people. (AP)
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Anti-government protesters clash with the riot police, during a protest at a road leading to the parliament building in Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. Riot police fired tears gas and sprayed protesters with water cannons near parliament building to disperse thousands of people. (AP)
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Anti-government protesters clash with the riot police, during a protest at a road leading to the parliament building in Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. Riot police fired tears gas and sprayed protesters with water cannons near parliament building to disperse thousands of people. (AFP)
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Anti-government protesters clash with the riot police, during a protest at a road leading to the parliament building in Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. Riot police fired tears gas and sprayed protesters with water cannons near parliament building to disperse thousands of people. (AFP)
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Anti-government protesters clash with the riot police, during a protest at a road leading to the parliament building in Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. Riot police fired tears gas and sprayed protesters with water cannons near parliament building to disperse thousands of people. (AP)
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Updated 19 January 2020

Almost 400 wounded in Lebanon clashes

  • It was the heaviest toll since the protests erupted three months ago
  • Protesters had called Saturday for a week of ‘anger’ as an economic crisis deepened

BEIRUT: Almost 400 people were wounded Saturday during running battles between Lebanese anti-government protesters and security forces in the capital Beirut, rescue services said.

It was the heaviest toll since the protests erupted three months ago, with the Red Cross and Civil Defense saying 377 people at least were rushed to hospitals or treated at the scene.

Lebanon’s public prosecutor ordered the release Sunday of more than 30 people detained the previous evening, according to the National State News agency, in the worst day of violence since protests erupted three months ago.
The public prosecutor said all 34 arrested are to be released, except those with other pending cases.

More demonstrations were expected later Sunday as part of the wave of popular protests that has demanded the wholesale ouster of the Lebanese political class, which the activists condemn as inept and corrupt.

Protesters had called Saturday for a week of “anger” as an economic crisis deepened while efforts remained deadlocked to form a new government to replace the one that stepped down under street pressure late last year.

Saturday’s clashes began after dozens of protesters, some concealing their faces with scarves, threw rocks, plant pots and other objects at anti-riot police guarding the road leading to parliament.

Others tried to breach barbed wire barricades to reach the legislature building or charged police lines using traffic signs as weapons.

The security forces responded with water cannon and tear gas to disperse the crowds.

The Civil Defense said late Saturday 43 people were taken to hospital and that it had treated at the scene 114 others who were “slightly injured or suffered from breathing problems.”

The Red Cross said it had rushed 80 people to city hospitals while 140, including both protesters and members of the security forces, were given first aid at the scene of the clashes.

Meanwhile security forces said they had opened an investigation after a video shared online showed police beating up people believed to be protesters as they were brought to a Beirut police station.

 

The protest movement that has rocked Lebanon since October 17 is demanding that a new government be comprised of independent experts and exclude all established political parties.

The previous government headed by veteran premier Saad Hariri stepped down on October 29 under pressure from the street but has stayed on in a caretaker capacity.

The demonstrators have been denouncing rampant corruption in Lebanon and accuse authorities of being inefficient and motivated by personal and partisan gains.

Political factions agreed on December 19 to appoint former education minister Hassan Diab as the new premier but have since squabbled over proposed ministers.

The World Bank has warned of the worsening impact on the economy, saying the poverty rate in Lebanon could rise from a third to half of the population if the political crisis is not resolved soon.

On Sunday, calls were posted online for new demonstrations near the parliament.


Palestinian minister claims Israeli police physically abused him

Fadi Hidmi. (Supplied)
Updated 04 April 2020

Palestinian minister claims Israeli police physically abused him

  • East Jerusalem — with a population of 350,000 — has been all but ignored by the Israeli Ministry of Health in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic

AMMAN: Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Fadi Hidmi was released by Israeli police on Friday afternoon after being arrested for the fourth time without charge.

Ministry spokesman Awad Awad told Arab News that Hidmi had been “warned” not to “move around” or “do any work in” Jerusalem in accordance with measures being taken to minimize the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Awad also claimed that Hidmi had been physically abused by the police, saying that the minister was “punched in the face and forced to wear a mask with blood on it.”

CCTV at Hidmi’s Mount of Olives house show that he was manhandled by Israeli police during his arrest in the early hours of Friday.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed the arrest.

Rosenfeld told the Israeli press that Hidmi was arrested “on suspicion of Palestinian activities in Jerusalem.”

He said police searched Hidmi’s home and confiscated documents as well as “large sums of money. Israeli media said that the police had confiscated NIS10,000 ($2,750) found in the house.

Hidmi, a Jerusalem resident, was the director of the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce and Industry before accepting his current job in the Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh’s government.

Before Hidmi’s release on Friday, Shtayyeh wrote on social media: “Israel targets who work for #Jerusalem, even at such critical moments as we work to save our people's lives from #COVID19.”

East Jerusalem — with a population of 350,000 — has been all but ignored by the Israeli Ministry of Health in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Jamil Kousa, director of the St. Joseph hospital, told Palestine TV that he was only informed on March 25 that his hospital should be prepared to accept patients with COVID-19.

Ahmad Buderi, the coordinator of the Jerusalem Alliance — an organization launched to help combat COVID-19 — has said that people in the city are depending almost solely on local initiatives to deal with the pandemic.

Before his arrest, Hidmi launched the website madad.ps to coordinate the distribution of urgenly needed food and medical supplies to the city’s residents.

Walid Nammour, secretary-general of the Jerusalem Hospital Network, estimates that the city’s six hospitals need $7 million to to deal with the potential spread of COVID-19 in East Jerusalem.

Nammour told Arab News that 300-400 ventilators are needed and that only 26 are available at present.