Coronavirus outbreak sparks violent protests in Lebanon

Coronavirus outbreak sparks violent protests
Lebanon's currency has dropped since a popular uprising gripped the country late in 2019. Source: AP
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Daily US Times: Lebanon is facing growing turmoil after the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak sparked violent protests over rising poverty and hunger.

Like many others around the world, the country’s economy was brought to a screeching halt by a government-imposed lockdown designed to stop the spread of coronavirus, tut the measures further exacerbated the country’s deep and long-running financial crisis.

Lebanon’s currency has dropped since a popular uprising gripped the country late in 2019, and it defaulted on its debt for the first time. Now, after nearly two months of lockdown, food prices are soaring in the country and Lebanese lira is in free-fall.

The World Bank projected prior to the Cobid-19 outbreak, that 45% of people in Lebanon would be below the poverty line in 2020. Social Affairs Minister Ramzi Musharrafieh said the government believes that up to 75% of people are in need of aid.

Fawaz Fouad al-Samman, a demonstrator, who died on Tuesday morning after sustaining gunshot wounds during clashes with the army in the northern city of Tripoli. Samman’s sister and a fellow protester said and the hospital that treated his wounds confirmed the death. Protesters dubbed the 26-year-old as “the martyr of hunger.”

Lebanese soldiers remove burning tires placed by anti-government protesters to block a road. Source: AP

The Lebanese army said in a tweet it was “deeply sorry for the falling of a martyr” during Monday’s protests. The army said it has opened an inquiry into the death. The country’s military added that rioting was carried out by “infiltrators,” and stated that it “will not tolerate any person in breach of security and stability.”

Protesters return with a vengeance

The protests have renewed after nearly two-month of coronavirus lockdown, which sparks the popular uprising. Protesters are returning to the streets with a vengeance. The country’s banks have borne the brunt of people’s anger.

A video from Monday showed charred storefronts and an army vehicle on fire as clashes raged between demonstrators and soldiers in Tripoli, Lebanon’s poorest city.

On Tuesday, clashes renewed in the center of Tripoli. Protesters were being treated with tear gas as they tried to set bank branches alight and hurled stones.

Minister Musharrafieh said: “The problem is that you’re having a combined crisis, between the essential economic crisis and the Covid-19 crisis.”

“Unfortunately with the problem of the Covid-19, the situation has been compounded.”

The minister said they are working hard on an economic plan that could try to pull the country out of this situation.

”We are in a position that is difficult but we are hopeful that we can get out of it,” he added.

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