Lebanese police clash with anti-government protesters

AFP Beirut, Beyrouth, Lebanon Dec 15, 2019, 12.45 PM(IST)

File Photo: Supporters of the Lebanese Shi'ite groups Hezbollah and Amal carry flags as Lebanese army soldiers are deployed in Beirut, Lebanon. Photograph:( Reuters )

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Lebanon has been swept by unprecedented nationwide protests since October 17, demanding the complete overhaul of a political class deemed inept and corrupt.

Lebanese police clashed with anti-government protesters in Beirut late Saturday, firing tear gas to prevent them from breaching barricades near parliament, ahead of talks next week to appoint a new premier. 

Lebanon has been swept by unprecedented nationwide protests since October 17, demanding the complete overhaul of a political class deemed inept and corrupt.

The government stepped down on October 29, but bitterly divided political parties have subsequently failed to agree on a new premier, although talks are now planned for Monday.

Saturday's clashes erupted at the entrance to the street leading to parliament, which was blocked by security forces.

Images broadcast by local TV channel LBC showed the anti-government protesters trying to break through metal police barricades, and officers firing tear gas and beating them. 

The demonstrators overturned heavy flower pots and shouted slogans hostile to the security forces and parliament speaker Nabih Berri, the footage showed.

Clashes followed in Martyrs Square -- the epicentre of protests since October -- and on a bridge in the city centre, according to an AFP photographer.

Security forces fired rubber bullets, while protesters threw stones, the photographer said. 

Protesters were injured by batons while others passed out due to the intensity of tear gas fumes, and members of the security forces were also wounded, the photographer said.

The Lebanese Red Cross said on Twitter that it had taken 10 people to hospital and provided care to 33 people on the ground. 

It told AFP people had been treated for breathing difficulties and fainting, along with injuries caused by stones, noting that security personnel and civilians were among those treated. 

Lebanese civil defence also said it took 10 people to hospital, but did not specify whether the affected were civilians or members of the security forces.