Protests

Lebanon protestors defiant despite Hizbullah attack

By AFP

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Supporters of Hizbullah and Amal clash with protestors in Beirut, on November 25th. [Anwar Amro/AFP]

Security forces cleared road blocks across Lebanon on Monday (November 25th), facing off against protestors who took to the streets from the early morning despite being attacked overnight by Hizbullah and Amal supporters.

Demonstrators demanding a complete government overhaul have stayed mobilised since protests began on October 17th, but a bitterly divided political class has yet to find a way out of the crisis.

Frustrated by the stalemate, protestors had called for road blocks and a general strike on Monday, but an attack by Hizbullah and Amal supporters on Sunday night weakened the turnout.

At around midnight on Sunday, Hizbullah and Amal supporters attacked protestors at a flyover near the capital's main protest camp.

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Tear gas fills a street amid clashes between supporters of Hizbullah and Amal and protestors in Beirut on November 25th. [Anwar Amro/AFP]

Brandishing party flags, they hurled stones at peaceful demonstrators and taunted them with insults as riot police deployed to contain the violence.

The attackers also ravaged a nearby encampment, tearing down tents and damaging storefronts in their most serious assault on the protestors so far.

At least 10 demonstrators were wounded, civil defence said, without specifying the extent of their injuries.

Tense aftermath

On Monday morning, scattered stones, shattered glass and the mangled remains of tents littered the ground in the main protest camp.

Around the square, car windows had been smashed with rocks.

But the demonstrators said they would not cave in.

"The attack gave us all -- at least the ones here right now -- a sense of determination," said Dany Ayyash, 21, who was blocking a key road in Beirut's Hamra district early Monday.

Security forces deployed across main arteries in north and east Lebanon Monday, removing metal barricades and dirt barricades raised by demonstrators earlier.

The army said it arrested nine people north of Beirut at dawn after they tried to block roads using burning petrol and shattered glass.

It also arrested four other "rioters", releasing three shortly afterwards.

The security forces have come under fresh criticism following Sunday's attack, with protestors accusing them of being lax with Hizbullah and Amal supporters, most of whom were allowed to walk away.

Such criticism prompted Interior Minister Raya al-Hasan on Monday to respond by saying the army and police remain the only "guarantors of the country's stability".

Political paralysis

Political leaders have failed to select a new government nearly one month since Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri's cabinet resigned, bowing to popular pressure.

President Michel Aoun has said he is open to a government that would include technocrats and representatives of the popular movement -- both key demands of the protestors.

But demonstrators say they reject any government that would also include representatives of established parties.

The US, France, the World Bank and credit rating agencies have all urged officials to accelerate cabinet formation, warning of a deteriorating economic and political crisis.

In the latest diplomatic push, senior British foreign office official Richard Moore was in Lebanon on Monday.

He would "underline the urgent need to form a government" during meetings with the president, prime minister, foreign minister, the speaker and the army chief, a British embassy statement said.

"The people of Lebanon have been clear in their demand for improved governance, and they should be heard," Moore, the director general for political affairs, was quoted as saying.

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