In a televised address on Thursday, October 24, President Michel Aoun pointed to government corruption as the root cause of the country's ongoing economic crisis and expressed a willingness to dialogue with protesters to resolve the situation. Aoun pledged his support for an economic reform package put forth by Prime Minister Saad Hariri but did not offer any new concrete measures. Protests continued Thursday throughout major urban centers in Lebanon, including in Beirut, amid ongoing calls for the government to resign.
On Wednesday, October 23, at least 25 people were reportedly wounded in Nabatieh after clashes erupted between protesters and police, who were attempting to clear roadblocks and barricades erected by demonstrators. In a separate incident, the Lebanese Army intervened to defuse a confrontation between protesters and alleged Hezbollah supporters, who were holding a counter-protest.
The Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) has announced that all banks across the country will remain closed on Friday, October 25, for a seventh consecutive day amid ongoing protests.
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 16-17, the government approved tax hikes on tobacco products as part of its 2020 federal budget, as well as a 20 percent daily tax for individuals messaging via the WhatsApp mobile phone messenger application. The announcement sparked mass protests across the country on October 17, forcing the government to revoke the tax proposal. Since then, protests have evolved calling for the resignation of the government, and have continued despite an emergency reform package announced by Prime Minister Saad Hariri on October 21. The packages calls for a reduction in the salaries of government officials, a plan to privatize the telecommunications sector, and a proposed overhaul of the electricity sector. At least five people were killed, and several hundred protesters and security forces injured in the protests.
Individuals in Lebanon, and particularly in Beirut, are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid all protests and demonstrations as a precaution, anticipate transportation and business disruptions, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities.
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