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Lebanon’s government seeks vote of confidence amid violent protests

Security forces intervene in protesters during a protest held before a session at a parliament for a vote of confidence to new government of Hassan Diab on February 11, 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon [Mahmut Geldi/Anadolu Agency]

The Lebanese parliament convened this morning to conduct a confidence vote for the new government, despite attempts by protesters to prevent the assembly from taking place.

Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri stated that 67 dignitaries arrived at the parliament building, later rising to 68, with 65 the minimum needed to open the meeting.

Berri noted that former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement party MPs were not in attendance despite the bloc’s decision to attend the meeting but deny the government a vote of confidence.

Fifteen Lebanese Forces MPs, a Christian based political party and former militia during the civil war, were seen outside the parliament this morning, allegedly discussing their decision to enter the building, despite intending to vote against giving the government confidence.

Large numbers of Internal Security Forces and Army were deployed on the ground with full gear early this today, in preparation for violent clashes. Lebanon has faced mass protests since October 2019, over a worsening economic crisis and political deadlock. The formation of the government on 22 January failed to quell discontent and protests have become increasingly violent.

Amal and Hezbollah supporters were seen escorting MPs to the parliament building on motorbikes. Supporters later threw rocks at protesters in the Downtown area and hit people with sticks.

READ: Aoun calls on security services to not tolerate attempts to undermine state

Demonstrators also attempted to prevent MPs from reaching the parliament building by blocking roads, and resorted to throwing eggs, rocks and balloons containing paint at cars.

Cement slabs which have been erected by the Lebanese Army in recent weeks to protect the Downtown areas of Beirut, and block paths to the parliament building, were also torn down.

Local English language newspaper, the Daily Star reported a sighting of a man shooting at protesters with a handgun in Zoqaq Al-Blat in Beirut. Protesters later broke into a Downtown branch of Blom Bank and set the interior on fire.

“Riots and attacking public and private property distort the demands of protesters and do not help them achieve [the demands],” the army said in a statement released this morning.

The Lebanese Red Cross reported 39 hospitalised, and 241 treated at the scene for injuries sustained after riot police released tear gas, shot rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse protesters as early as 7:30am. At least three protesters lost consciousness.

One MP, Salim Saadeh, from the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party, was taken to hospital after he was beaten and had his car smashed by protesters, local news channel Al Jadeed reported.

In statements made inside the parliament, Prime Minister Hassan Diab warned of collapse, saying that “anyone who thinks that they will survive any economic collapse or from people’s anger is wrong”.

Diab then called for confidence through action, and reaffirmed Lebanon’s commitment to an independent foreign policy, and the liberation of Lebanese territories occupied by Israel.

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