BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces claimed demonstrations in the country had been infiltrated by organized groups in order to provoke riots at a meeting with President Michel Aoun at the country’s Presidential Palace on Monday
Security force commanders said the information led them to “take the necessary measures to protect peaceful demonstrators and prevent attacks on public and private properties, while stopping rioters and coordinating with the judiciary to enforce the law.”
The decisions came after three nights of violent confrontation between protestors and the Internal Security Forces (ISF), during which tear gas, smoke grenades and rubber bullets were used, severely wounding civilians and journalists.
Commanders submitted security reports on developments since the start of the protests in November 2019, in which they spoke of “measures taken to face the elements infiltrating the ranks of demonstrators to cause riots.”
Aoun asked for responsibility to be taken in identifying those who could be deemed dangerous for stoking riots, and those protesting peacefully.
Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri did not attend the meeting, instead tweeting: “Lebanon needs to quickly form a new government to stop a cycle of collapse and worsening economic and security conditions.
“Our government resigned in order to transition to a new government dealing with popular changes but obstruction has continued for 90 days and the country is moving towards the unknown,” he said, adding: “The continuation of the caretaker government is not the solution so let’s stop wasting time and have the government bear the responsibility.”
After three months of peaceful demonstrations, the protesters switched to what they have called “revolutionary violence” in light of the continued indifference of the political class towards their demands. For a third successive day on Monday they tried to breach the barriers around parliament, but were repelled by riot police.
The father of a wounded young man called Eid Khodr said his son suffered a fractured skull due to a rubber bullet.
“We protected ourselves, we wore helmets on our heads, facemasks and plastic coats for the water. What more can we do? We wrote ‘press’ on our chests and stood aside and still, they targeted us and shot a rubber bullet into my leg,” journalist Ihab Al-Akdi told Arab News.
Sanaa Al-Sheikh, a 29-year old soccer player who seen defying the security forces and climbing the obstacles and barbed wire surrounding parliament on Saturday, is still being treated in hospital for wounds on her back due to severe beating from police.
Al-Sheikh, from Tripoli, is an accredited referee with the Lebanese Football Association. She has been a sports coach for almost 15 years, holds a law degree, and has a sports academy in Tripoli called “Sanaa Star”.
“The political class has to listen to the people. Someone is trying to shift our attention in the wrong direction. The ISF personnel are our children, just like the demonstrators. Citizens are committing transgressions and nobody can control them but, we cannot compare their transgressions to those of the security forces,” the president of the Beirut Bar Association, Melhem Khalaf, told Arab News.
Calls have emerged on social media platforms, asking Lebanese people living abroad to contact or comment at the World Economic Forum in Davos, which Caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil is scheduled to attend.