‘Military Grenades, Gunfire’ in Fresh Round of Clashes in Tripoli

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A man passes in front a car that was set on fire during a protest against strict lockdown measures in Tripoli, north Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. Lebanon has hit a new daily record for COVID-19 fatalities, as protesters took to the streets for a second day to denounce strict lockdown measures put in place to curb an exhausting surge in infections. (AP Photo)

Intense clashes were underway between protesters and security forces Wednesday evening in the northern city of Tripoli.

The National News Agency said the protesters set fire to the gate of the city’s serail and the nearby trees after hurling stones and Molotov cocktails at the serail’s building, prompting security forces to respond with tear gas and water cannons.

The Internal Security Forces later fired gunshots in the air and warned protesters that it will defend its posts through “all legitimate means” after they tried to storm the serail from several sides.

The ISF also accused protesters of breaching the serail’s main gate, hurling Molotov cocktails at policemen and torching and damaging several vehicles.

The ISF later said that “military hand grenades and not sound bombs or Molotovs” were hurled at its members in Tripoli, injuring nine policemen including three officers. It added that one of the officers was critically wounded.

Al-Jadeed TV meanwhile reported that several protesters were injured by live gunshots.

The army later deployed in Tripoli’s al-Nour Square in a bid to contain the situation.

Red Cross crews meanwhile treated 22 wounded people on the ground and transported one person to hospital as other medics treated 12 people on the ground and transported three people to hospitals, which puts the overall injury toll at 38.

“We are here to demand food. People are hungry,” said 20-year-old protester Mohammed Ezzedine. “It’s time for people to take to the streets.”

“We live in wretched conditions. I’ve knocked on every door but can’t find work,” he added.

Protesters in other parts of the country also blocked major roads on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

The unrest had first erupted on Monday in protest at dire economic situations aggravated by a strict coronavirus lockdown.

Tripoli was already one of Lebanon’s poorest areas even before the pandemic piled on new misery to a chronic economic crisis.

Many of its residents have been left without an income since Lebanon enforced a full lockdown earlier this month in a bid to stem a surge in Covid-19 cases and prevent its hospitals being overwhelmed.

Last week, authorities extended the lockdown by two weeks, angering day laborers and other vulnerable groups.

A round-the-clock curfew is in force nationwide and grocery shopping is restricted to home deliveries, which are often unavailable in poorer areas.

Lebanon has recorded over 285,000 coronavirus cases and more than 2,470 deaths since the pandemic began.

The outbreak has compounded an economic crisis that has seen more than half of the population fall below the poverty line, with a quarter living in extreme poverty.

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