Protesters have clashed with security forces in the vicinity of Beirut's Parliament as of Saturday evening (local time), January 18. Security forces have reportedly used water cannons and tear gas to disperse protesters who had been attempting to reach Martyrs' Square. Saturday's demonstrations turned violent when protesters began hurling rocks, traffic signs, and tree branches at security forces guarding the Parliament building. Electricity has reportedly been cut off to Martyrs' Square as riot police attempt to quell the unrest.
Significant transportation and commercial disruptions are expected in protest-affected areas, and a heightened security presence is anticipated nationwide. Further clashes between security forces and demonstrators cannot be ruled out.
On October 16-17, 2019, the government approved tax hikes on tobacco products and a daily tax on messages and calls done 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, 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. On October 29, Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation. On December 19, President Michel Aoun designated former education minister Hassan Diab to serve as the next prime minister.
Individuals in Lebanon are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid demonstrations, anticipate a heightened security presence and disruptions to transportation and business near protest sites, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities.
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