Amal and Hezbollah supporters reportedly attacked opposition activists camped out in Beirut in the late hours (local time) of Monday, December 16. Following an inflammatory video that was reportedly circulating on social media on Monday, the pro-Shi'ite activists set fire to tents that opposition activists have been occupying in central Beirut as part of a wider protest campaign, vandalized office buildings and cars, and threw stones and fireworks at security forces nearby. At least 66 people were injured in the clashes, according to local media outlets.
Similar clashes took place between Amal and Hezbollah supporters and opposition activists in Saida in the early hours of Tuesday, December 17. Lebanese Armed Forces deployed to the area after pro-Shi'ite individuals vandalized and attacked the opposition encampment. In response, opposition supporters have called for a general strike in Saida on Tuesday, leading to the closure of several schools as of 08:30. Further business disruptions are possible in the coming hours.
Additional protests and clashes remain possible in Beirut, Saida, and other urban centers in the coming hours and days. Transportation and business disruptions are to be expected near demonstration sites.
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. On December 16, President Aoun delayed a parliamentary session to name the appointment of the next prime minister, which is widely expected to once again be Hariri.
Individuals in Beirut, and in Lebanon more generally, are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid all protests and demonstrations, anticipate transportation and business disruptions near demonstration sites, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities.
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