Nationwide protests erupted across Lebanon for a second consecutive day on Friday, October 18, amid growing calls for the government to resign. Protests broke out on Thursday, October 17, in opposition to newly proposed taxes on various goods including tobacco, gasoline, and some social media services.
In Beirut, security forces fired tear gas to forcibly disperse a demonstration after protesters set fire to a building. Thousands reportedly participated in the demonstrations in the capital, burning tires and vandalizing stores. Severe transportation disruptions were reported in Beirut as demonstrators erected roadblocks along major roads. In Tripoli, two protesters were killed and another four wounded after the bodyguard of a former member of parliament fired several gunshot rounds into the air.
In a televised address on Friday, Prime Minister Saad Hariri issued a 72-hour deadline to his political rivals to come up with solutions to the country's ongoing economic crisis. Hariri did not specify what course of action would be taken should the government fail to resolve the situation within the time frame provided.
Heightened security measures and transportation and business disruptions are to be expected in major urban centers over the coming days as protests continue. Clashes between protesters and security forces cannot be ruled out.
On October 16, government approved tax hikes on tobacco products as part of its 2020 federal budget. Information Minister Jama Jarrah announced a 20 percent daily fee for messaging app users on October 17, a plan expected to bring in USD 200 million per year. However, the announcement sparked spontaneous protests on October 17, forcing the government to revoke the tax proposal. Protests were notably reported in Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli, Jounieh, Jbeil, and the Bekaa Valley.
Individuals in Lebanon, and particularly in 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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