Demonstrations broke out in multiple cities across Lebanon during the evening (local time) of Thursday, October 17. Thousands of people gathered in Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli, and the Bekaa Valley to protest the government’s newly proposed taxes on various goods including tobacco, gasoline, and some social media platforms. In Beirut, demonstrators have marched near the government headquarters and parliament building amid a heavy riot police presence. Roadblocks have been erected on some major streets, with protesters burning tires and rubble. According to local media reports, the road to Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport (BEY) was also blocked by protesters. Some clashes between security forces and the crowds have been reported but it is unclear if there are any casualties. Government officials announced late on Thursday that it will withdraw some of the proposed taxes but it is unclear if the announcement will calm the protesters.
Further demonstrations are possible across Lebanon over the coming hours and days. A heightened security presence is expected in Beirut and other cities as tensions remain high.
On Wednesday, October 16, the government approved tax hikes on tobacco products as part of the 2020 budget. Information Minister Jama Jarrah announced a 20 cent daily fee for messaging app users on Thursday morning, which was expected to bring in USD 200 million a year. However, the announcement sparked the spontaneous protests, forcing the government to reverse its decision to approve the tax.
Individuals in Lebanon, particularly Beirut, are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid all protests and demonstrations as a precaution, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities.
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