As of 04:17 (local time) on Saturday, October 19, several thousand opposition activists are still gathered in downtown Beirut to reject newly proposed taxes on various goods including tobacco, gasoline, and some social media services. In the evening of Friday, October 18, security forces fired tear gas to forcibly disperse a demonstration after protesters set fire to a building in the capital. Thousands of protesters vandalized stores and burned tires to use as roadblocks on major roads, including to Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport (BEY). 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. At least 160 people have been injured since the protests broke out on Thursday, October 17.
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. Opposition activists have said that they will continue to protest.
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, the government approved tax hikes on tobacco products as part of its 2020 federal budget. Information Minister Jama Jarrah announced a 20 percent daily tax for individuals messaging via the WhatsApp mobile phone messenger application on October 17. 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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