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Lebanon: One dead after protesters, army clash

Fawaz Fouad Samman died after he was shot by the Lebanese Army in Tripoli, Lebanon on 27 April 2020 [Twitter]
Fawaz Fouad Samman died after he was shot by the Lebanese Army in Tripoli, Lebanon on 28 April 2020 [Twitter]

A 26-year-old man died today, succumbing to wounds sustained last night during clashes between protesters and the Lebanese Army in the northern city of Tripoli.

In a post on Facebook, Fawaz Fouad Samman’s sister confirmed the news that her brother had died after being shot with live ammunition by the Lebanese Army last night.

“My brother Fawaz Faoud al-Samman, 26, was martyred and died of his wounds sustained from a live bullet fired during revolutionary clashes with the Army yesterday in Tripoli,” Fatima Fouad wrote.

A further 48 were injured in violence in Tripoli’s Abdel-Hamid Square last night, among them 35 civilians and 13 soldiers. The Red Cross responded with six teams, transporting three people to hospital and treating others at the scene.

Anti-government protests restarted in earnest on Sunday, after a lull in activity in the first month of the coronavirus lockdown.

READ: Lebanon arrests man for trying to sell a migrant worker on Facebook

Demonstrators vented their anger at the dire living conditions, economic crisis and the rapid devaluation of the Lebanese pound by burning tyres, vandalising banks and blocking roads in Tripoli.

Similar demonstrations took place in the southern Lebanese town of Sidon, where protesters threw stones and fire crackers at the central bank headquarters late last night, the National News Agency reported.

Protesters also took to the streets in Beirut, where, according to an AFP correspondent, demonstrators attempted to reach the Grand Serail (houses of parliament), but were pushed back by army personnel, sparking clashes.

The Lebanese Army put out a statement on Twitter last night, terming some of the protesters “infiltrators”. Adding this morning that, “Army command warns that it will not tolerate any breach of security and stability or anyone tempted to violate civil peace.”

Protesters last night targeted banks, setting at least one on fire, damaging the facades of others, and attacking at least one army patrol vehicle with a fire-bomb. One army patrol was assailed with a hand grenade which lightly wounded two soldiers, Reuters reported.

In response, the Lebanese Banking Association has ordered all banks in Tripoli to remain closed from today until security can be restored.

READ: Alleged shooter in Lebanon’s largest civilian attack apprehended

Banks have been a target of protester anger since demonstrations began in October, with many citizens frustrated by stringent banking regulations, which restrict the amount account holders can withdraw per week.

Direct attacks on bank buildings have intensified since the central bank issued a circular on Sunday instructing currency exchange houses not to sell the dollar for more than 3,200 Lira. On the parallel market, the exchange rate is closer to 4,000 Lira to $1.

In a sign of the deepening crisis, Prime Minister Hassan Diab admitted that Lebanese bank deposits had plunged by $5.7 billion in the first two months of the year. In a televised address on Friday, Diab also blamed central bank Governor Riad Salameh for orchestrating the currency crash.

To make matters worse, exploratory offshore drilling, hoping to find gas and oil reserves within Lebanese waters, which could provide a desperately needed economic lifeline, has so far not yielded positive results.

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