Clashes between groups of protesters and security forces broke out in Beirut on Friday, October 25, amid the ninth day of nationwide protests in Lebanon. Alleged Hezbollah supporters attacked a group of protesters with sticks and rocks in Riad el-Solh Square, wounding one person before being dispersed by riot police. In Furn el-Chebbak municipality, protesters reportedly clashed with security forces when the Lebanese army attempted to dismantle a highway roadblock. Protesters continued to gather in Riad el-Solh and Martyrs' Squares as of Friday evening (local time).
President Michel Aoun expressed a willingness to hold dialogue with protesters to resolve the situation and reportedly met with officials from the Central Bank on Friday morning to discuss the country's current economic crisis.
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 disruptions to transportation and business 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 call 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 wounded 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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