12/16/2019, 09.53
LEBANON
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Beirut, dozens injured violent suppression of anti-government protests

Second night of clashes between protesters and security forces.  At least 46 injured, another 14 people hospitalized.  The protesters denounce a disproportionate use of force;  elements infiltrated among the crowd to "de-legitimize" the popular initiative.  The Ministry of Interior announces the opening of an investigation.  In the streets less army and more brigades and militias to manage the protest.

 

Beirut (AsiaNews / Agencies) - For the second consecutive night the center of Beirut has been the scene of clashes between security forces and protesters, who have been demonstrating for weeks against corruption and malfeasance and to demand the expulsion of the entire political and ruling class.  The epicenter of the violence was the Parliament, where the crowd was once again the object of violent repression by security forces.  According to the first, brief information there would be dozens of injuries.

Analysts and experts confirm that the clashes of these last 48 hours are the most serious since the beginning of the demonstrations, on October 17 last, that led to the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.  A crowd, composed of men and women, poured into the streets last night singing "revolution, revolution", wrapped in a thick blanket of smoke caused by tear gas thrown by agents in riot gear.

The security forces used water cannons and smoke bombs in an attempt to disperse hundreds of people in the streets.  According to local civil protection reports, at least 46 people have had to resort to medical treatment, another 14 have been hospitalized.  The clashes were concentrated in the commercial district of Beirut and continued for most of the night;  law enforcement officers closed several arteries and communication routes in the capital.

At this time the parties are tightening the last agreements that should lead to a new appointment of Hariri as Prime Minister.  However, the deep political rifts that hinder the formation of a new executive, called to avert an even worse crisis, remain.

Meanwhile, the controversy over the violent suppression of the protest of the night of December 14 is mounting.  Interior Minister Raya el-Hassan called for an investigation to be opened into the facts, although doubts remain as to the origin of the violence and, above all, on the response deemed disproportionate by the Security Forces (FSI).  In a note she assures "that she followed the events throughout the night" in a mixture of "anxiety, sadness and concern".

Unpublished, the head of the FSI, General Imad Osman, also intervened on the clashes, who took to the streets and addressed both the agents and the protesters in view of the gathering of this night.  He wanted to reassure civilians and asked them to "preserve" the "peaceful" character of the protest movement;  however, he did not want to answer the questions, in particular those on the arrests of protesters who were consumed on the night between 14 and 15 December.

According to some observers, in the last period the army has disappeared from the streets and the management (or repression) of the protest is entrusted to special departments, elements of internal security and unidentified militias, "anti-riot brigades" marked by an abnormal use of force.  The fact remains that "the vastness of the repression" is "disproportionate" and "out of context" with respect to the number of protesters on the streets.  In this sense it is clear that the goal of the security forces is not to push the protesters out of Parliament, but to drive them out of the city center in any way.

However, repression does not seem to discourage citizens, who are relaunching the peaceful struggle.  "They do not know they have lost all their legitimacy, even abroad, and this is a new victory for the revolution," the 24-year-old Céline, from Lyon, where she has lived for years and returned to Lebanon, says to L'Orient-Le Jour.  "I had lunch with my family - she continues - and then I immediately came here".  The expatriates, she concludes, "support the protesters unconditionally, whom I thank for taking to the streets for us too".  For Mario the violence of the last few hours "is a message of intimidation launched by law enforcement and infiltrators" to weaken the protest front and say "that it does not exist".  Among the people in the streets, in fact, the most widespread opinion is that there is a growing number of infiltrators to delegitimize the protest and justify the repression.

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