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dozens injured in clashes with police on Beirut streets

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Anti-government protesters in tear gas smoke during a rally in central Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday December 14, 2019. Hussein Malla / AP

The protests in Lebanon continue at the same time as the repression that accompanies it. Dozens of people were injured in clashes that occurred on Saturday evening, December 14, in Beirut, according to a new report.

Security forces used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse anti-power demonstrators. This violence is among the most significant since October 17 and the start of an unprecedented protest in Lebanon.

Lebanese Interior Minister Raya Haffar El-Hassan called on the internal security forces for an investigation on Sunday "Fast and transparent" in order to determine the responsibilities in this violence.

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Lebanese politicians must "To shake oneself" and end the crisis that is paralyzing the country against a backdrop of anti-system popular protests, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Sunday. "The political authorities must shake up because the country is in a dramatic situation", launched the head of French diplomacy during the program "Questions politiques" on France Inter radio.

Discomfort from gas

Two days of parliamentary consultations organized to try to appoint a new prime minister, dozens of demonstrators gathered on Saturday in the center of the capital to denounce the entire political class.

The Lebanese popular movement, which protests against a ruling class deemed to be corrupt and incompetent, demands a government made up exclusively of technocrats and independents. The demonstrators notably chanted slogans against the president of the Parliament, Nabih Berri, or the head of the resigning government, Saad Hariri.

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The clashes erupted when protesters attempted to cross a police roadblock blocking the entrance to an avenue leading to the Houses of Parliament, before continuing elsewhere in the city center. An Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographer saw protesters injured by baton blows and other victims of discomfort due to the gas on Saturday evening.

While the city center was overwhelmed by thick smoke, the photographer also saw the riot police shoot rubber bullets while the demonstrators threw stones. Members of the security forces were also injured, the same source said.

"Excessive use of force"

The Lebanese Red Cross has transported fifteen wounded to hospitals and treated thirty-seven people there, according to a new report communicated to the AFP by an official of the organization Rodney Eid. The latter reported on Saturday evening cases of fainting, injured with breathing difficulties and others hit by stone throws. The injured were civilians but also members of the security forces.

On his Twitter account, Diala Haidar, who works in Lebanon for Amnesty International, denounced a "Excessive use of force" by the security forces, referring to the presence of men in civilian clothes, some masked, attacking the demonstrators and arresting them alongside the security forces.

For its part, the Lebanese civil defense announced on Saturday evening on having "Transported 36 injured to hospitals", while fifty-four people were treated on the spot.

The internal security forces, they announced early Sunday on their Twitter account about 20 injured among their staff who had to be transported to hospitals, others having been treated on the spot.

Anti-government protesters in the smoke of tear gas during a rally in central Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, December 14, 2019.
Anti-government protesters in tear gas smoke during a rally in central Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday December 14, 2019. Hussein Malla / AP
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The demonstrations were generally held in calm but, in recent weeks, clashes have multiplied. Under pressure from the street, Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29, but his government continues to manage current affairs.

The country's main parties have so far failed to agree on a successor, and the formation of the new cabinet could drag on in a country on the brink of economic collapse.

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