Lebanese Protesters Set Fire to Political Parties' Offices After Crackdown

130 said wounded in overnight clashes amid nationwide protests ■ Talks planned for Monday on naming new prime minister

The Associated Press
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Lebanese riot police prepare to fire teargas canisters during clashes with anti-government demonstrators in Beirut on December 14, 2019.
Lebanese riot police prepare to fire teargas canisters during clashes with anti-government demonstrators in Beirut on December 14, 2019. Credit: ANWAR AMRO / SERVICES AFP / AFP
The Associated Press

Attackers in northern Lebanon set fire to the offices of two major political parties on Sunday, the state-run National News Agency said.

The assaults came just hours after the capital Beirut was rocked by the most violent government crackdown on protesters since nationwide demonstrations began two months ago. Lebanese security forces fired rubber bullets, tear gas and used water cannons throughout the night to disperse anti-government protesters from the city center — the epicenter of the protest movement in Beirut — and around parliament.

The overnight confrontations in Beirut left more than 130 people injured, according to the Red Cross and the Lebanese Civil Defense.

In the northern Akkar district on Sunday, attackers broke the windows and torched the local office for resigned Prime Minister Saad Hariri's political party in the town of Kharibet al-Jindi.

In a separate attack in Akkar district, assailants stormed the local office of the largest party in parliament, affiliated with President Michel Aoun and headed by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. Their party said the contents of the office in Jedidat al-Juma town had also been smashed and burned.

Riot police officers beat an anti-government protester during a protest near the parliament square in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Dec. 14, 2019.
Riot police officers beat an anti-government protester during a protest near the parliament square in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Dec. 14, 2019. Credit: AP Photo/Hussein Malla

Lebanon is facing one of its worst economic crises in decades, and the protesters accuse the ruling political class in place for three decades of mismanagement and corruption.

The violence comes a day before the president is due to hold talks with different parliamentary blocs to name a new prime minister on Monday.

Interior Minister Raya al-Hassan on Sunday ordered an investigation into the clashes which she said injured both protesters and security forces. She said she watched the confrontations “with concern, sadness and shock.”

Al-Hassan blamed “infiltrators" for instigating the friction and called on the demonstrators to be wary of those who want to exploit their protests for political reasons. She didn't elaborate.

Nationwide protests began on October 17, and the government headed by Hariri resigned two weeks later.

Political parties have since been bickering over the shape and form of the new Cabinet. Protesters want a technocratic government, not affiliated with established political parties.

After weeks of back and forth, Hariri has emerged as the likely candidate for the job.

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