Some 70 protesters were arrested after a tense night in Lebanon as thousands marched in Beirut to demand economic reforms and end alleged corruption, AFP reported on Saturday October 19th.
Clashes erupted last night between protesters and security troops, as crowds gathered near the presidential palace in the city of Baabda.
The Lebanese army moved on Saturday morning October 19th, to end the protests and troops reopened some major highways that had been blocked by protesters.
The troops fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the huge crowd that had gathered into the early hours in Riyadh al-Solh Square in the heart of Beirut.
Some protesters gathered on the streets of the capital during Saturday morning October 19th preparing for a new day of protests despite arrests.
After the clashes overnight, parts of central Beirut looked like a war zone, littered with broken glass, overturned litter bins, and the remains of burning tyres. Banks and many restaurants and shops remained closed.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri had tried to defuse tensions in a speech Friday evening, October 18th.
“The Lebanese people granted enough opportunity to the Lebanese authority to carry out these reforms, but it failed to do so over the past four years despite all warnings by opposition,” Hariri said.
He has given his deeply divided coalition partners until Monday October 21st to give their backing to a reform package, aimed at shoring up the government's finances, and securing the disbursement of desperately needed economic assistance from donors.
The demonstrations erupted on Thursday October 17th, sparked by a proposed 20% tax on calls via messaging apps such as WhatsApp.
The United Nations has urged all sides to refrain from activities that could lead to increased tensions and violence.