Lebanese armed forces were deployed to the Presidential Palace in Baabda on Sunday, December 1, to disperse protests amid calls to gather there in efforts to pressure President Michel Aoun to form a government. Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned over one month ago amid nationwide protests demanding social and economic reforms. Aoun supporters called for a counter-protest, prompting soldiers to form a human chain to prevent clashes among the two groups.
Roadblocks were reported by angry motorists to condemn the ongoing petrol station strike that has prompted fuel shortages in parts of the country on Friday, November 29. In the evening (local time), demonstrators also blocked the main highway linking the northern city of Tripoli to the capital in both directions.
Additional protests, including spontaneous ones, are to be expected nationwide, though especially in Beirut, over the coming several days. Heightened security measures and disruptions to transportation and businesses are to be expected in major urban centers during the general strike and as protests continue. Clashes between protesters and 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, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities.
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