Government sources have reported an ongoing gathering of protesters in Antelias as of the morning (local time) on Thursday, April 30. The group intends to lead a protest through the Matn neighborhood later on Thursday. Protests are to be expected in other cities throughout Lebanon on Thursday, for a fifth consecutive day of anti-government protests amid strict coronavirus disease (COVID-19) movement and social distancing measures in place.
On Wednesday, April 29, violent protests were reported in several cities, including in Sidon, where Molotov cocktails were thrown at the central bank for the second consecutive night. There are reports of an injured soldier who was attacked by protesters using stones at the city's commercial center. The road in front of the Bank of Lebanon was closed to traffic and clashes between protesters and police were reported.
In Tripoli, where the protest resurgence commenced on Sunday, April 26, the Red Cross recorded 31 injured on Wednesday alone, with clashes between police and protesters reported at the Mina roundabout. Protesters threw stones at police, who in turn responded with tear gas. Roadblocks were erected by participants there and near Place Al-Nour using tires that were later set alight. Four banks were vandalized on Wednesday and at least seven people were arrested.
In Nabatieh, a group of unidentified individuals threw Molotov cocktails at a bank on Mahmoud Fakih Street overnight at 02:30 (local time) on Thursday, which prompted a fire and the presence of civil defense brigades and police patrols.
President Aoun expressed concern over the ongoing security situation and called on the army to stop attacks on public and private property in Tripoli especially.
Banks remain closed in Tripoli following an announcement by the Lebanese banking association declared on Monday, April 27.
A heightened security presence and associated transportation disruptions are to be expected to continue over the near term.
Mass protests originally broke out in Lebanon on October 17, 2019, after the Lebanese government approved tax hikes on tobacco products and a daily tax on messages and calls done via the WhatsApp mobile phone messenger application. The protests forced the government to revoke the tax proposal and demands have since evolved into calls for the resignation of the government. On October 29, Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation, and on January 21, 2020, former education minister Hassan Diab was appointed as his successor.
Protests stepped up in April as the Lebanese pound collapses. Banks have been the principal target, as they are seen as responsible for Lebanon's recent economic difficulties. The recent protests have taken place despite the lockdown measures imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Individuals in Lebanon are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid demonstrations, anticipate a heightened security presence near protest sites, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities.
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