Clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces were reported near the Lebanese Parliament in Beirut on Sunday night (local time), January 19, as demonstrators denounced the ruling elite, financial institutions, and their role in fomenting the country's ongoing economic crisis. Some protesters threw stones and other projectiles at security forces, who responded by firing tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators. At least 114 people were wounded in Sunday's protests and clashes, with most injured by rubber bullets; on Saturday, January 18, similar clashes left at least 377 wounded in the capital.
Significant transportation and commercial disruptions are to be expected in protest-affected areas over the coming hours, and a heightened security presence is to be anticipated in Beirut over the near term. 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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