Recently appointed Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced the members of his cabinet on Tuesday, January 21, amid ongoing protests. Thousands of people gathered in the capital Beirut ahead of the announcement, blocking main roads and disrupting traffic. Later in the day, some protesters threw stones, firecrackers, and other objects at police officers near the Parliament building. Security forces responded with tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowds. Similar rallies were held in other cities across Lebanon to demand that cabinet members be chosen without the involvement of political groups.
Demonstrations may continue over the near term despite the recent efforts of Prime Minister Diab. A heightened security presence is to be anticipated in Beirut and other major cities, particularly around any protest site. Further clashes between security forces and demonstrators cannot be ruled out.
Over 540 people were wounded during fighting between protesters and security forces across Lebanon on Saturday, January 18, and Sunday, January 19.
Mass protests originally broke out on October 17, 2019, after 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 protests forced the government to revoke the tax proposal and since then the demands evolved into calling for the resignation of the government. On October 29, Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation and later on December 19 President Michel Aoun designated former education minister Hassan Diab to serve as the next prime minister.
Individuals in Lebanon, and in Beirut in particular, 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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