More than 300 people wounded in Beirut protest clashes: rescuers


FILE PHOTO: A riot police kicks a tear gas canister during a protest against a ruling elite accused of steering Lebanon towards economic crisis in Beirut, Lebanon January 18, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese rescuers treated more than 300 people for injuries during hours of clashes between security forces and protesters that rocked central Beirut on Saturday night.

It was the highest toll in some of the most intense violence since largely peaceful protests erupted across the country in October. As Lebanon sinks deeper into its worst economic crisis in decades, anger has boiled over at a ruling elite dominating the country since the 1975-1990 civil war.

The Lebanese Red Cross said it had treated 220 people who were wounded on both sides on Saturday night, taking 80 of them to hospital. The Civil Defense said it had helped 114 others.

Smoke enveloped a commercial district of the capital as security forces fired volleys of tear gas and unleashed water cannons. Riot police chased after men and women near Lebanon’s parliament late into the night.

Protesters, with their faces covered, hurled stones, steel barriers and flower pots. They ripped branches off trees and signposts off the ground, charging at riot police.

In three months of protests, which have gripped the country and pushed Prime Minister Saad Hariri to quit, politicians wrangling over cabinet seats have failed to agree a new government or a rescue plan.

Meanwhile, the crisis is biting: the Lebanese pound has lost nearly half its value, dollar shortages have driven up prices and confidence in the banking system has collapsed.

Reporting by Ellen Francis; Editing by Peter Graff

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