Gunfire, Tear Gas as Tripoli Protesters Attack Banks, Torch Army Vehicle

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Fierce confrontations erupted Monday evening in the northern city of Tripoli as angry anti-government protesters vandalized the facades of several banks and torched an army vehicle.

“Heavy confrontations between Lebanese Army units and protesters are still ongoing and soldiers are chasing security violators in the streets and neighborhoods that surround al-Nour Square, especially those who vandalized and torched the facades and ATMs of several banks,” the National News Agency said.

“Some protesters also torched an army vehicles, which prompted troops to fire in the air and throw tear gas to disperse the demonstrators,” NNA added, noting that several people were injured in the clashes.

The protesters also spread to the Bab al-Tabbaneh area, where protesters blocked Syria Street – a vital public road that links the area to al-Qobbeh and the Akkar province.

Protesters also smashed the facade of a bank on the el-Mina Boulevard, while shouting slogans denouncing the hike in prices and the dollar exchange rate.

The incidents pushed the Association of Banks in Lebanon to announce that banks in Tripoli will be closed until “the return of security” to the city.

Hundreds of demonstrators also rallied outside the house of MP Faisal Karami in the city, where another confrontation with the army took place.

“The situation escalated after the young men smashed public and private properties, which prompted the army to fire four shots in the air and riot police to disperse them” with tear gas, NNA added.

Elsewhere, protesters hurled stones and firecrackers at the central bank’s branch in the southern city of Sidon before being confronted by army troops.

Anti-government protests have engulfed several parts of Lebanon since Sunday amid a crash in the Lebanese pound and a surge in food prices.

Scuffles erupted at many locations as army trooos moved in to reopen blocked roads.

The Lebanese national currency hit a new record low over the weekend, with 4,000 pounds to the dollar on the black market while the official price remained at 1,507 pounds.

Earlier over the weekened, several banks in northern and southern Lebanon were attacked, some with firebombs, reflecting rising public anger against banks that have imposed capital controls on people’s accounts.

In a sign of the deepening crisis, Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Friday accused the longtime Central Bank governor, Riad Salameh, of orchestrating the local currency’s crash, and criticized what he called the governor’s “opaque” policies that the premier said covered up major banking sector losses and capital flight.

Lebanon is one of the world’s most indebted countries and has been grappling with a liquidity crunch, an economic recession and rising unemployment.

Source  Naharnet

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