At least 150 people were wounded after clashes between protesters and security forces erupted in Beirut on Saturday, January 18. Demonstrators reportedly hurled stones and other projectiles at security forces guarding Parliament, prompting police to respond with rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons. Amid the clashes, suspected members of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) attacked and set fire to protesters' tents in Martyrs' Square; at least one nearby shop sustained damage from the blaze. The ISF has denied claims that some of its forces were responsible for the fire. A number of banks in the capital were also reportedly vandalized on Saturday.
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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