Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Martyr's Square in Beirut on the afternoon (local time) on Friday, November 22, to mark Lebanon's 76th anniversary of independence. Road closures and small fires were reported in the vicinity of the demonstration. President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri attended a small ceremony and a military parade in front of the defense ministry earlier in the day. Further protests are likely over the coming days.
Heightened security measures and disruptions to transportation and businesses 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 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 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. On October 29, Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation. Former finance minister, Mohammad Safadi, who was expected to be appointed as Hariri's successor, declined on November 17, stating the difficulties to form a legitimate cabinet in this context.
Individuals in Lebanon are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid all protests and demonstrations as a precaution, anticipate transportation and business disruptions near demonstration sites, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities.
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