Protesters in several regions of Lebanon, including the country’s main cities, blocked roads to demonstrate against the aggravating deterioration of living conditions, fuel and electricity shortages, and the freefall of the Lebanese pound which reached 17,500 per dollar on Monday morning.
Roads were blocked in the southern city of Sidon, as well as Tripoli, North Lebanon, Bar Elias, Central Bekaa Valley, as well as in villages that connect the coast and the Bekaa Valley.
As the Lebanese pound plunged, several supermarkets in the capital of Beirut told local tv channel MTV that they hadn’t received any merchandise on Monday morning and that they were expecting an increase in prices.
The head of the supermarket owners’ association, Nabil Fahed, told MTV that suppliers were waiting for prices to settle after the exchange rate increased by LBP2,500 over the weekend.
“If the price of diesel doubles, the burden will increase on us, but we will not close our doors unless the diesel is cut off,” he added.
Most gas stations remained closed on Monday, as they waited for the enforcement of a new government decision to allow distributors to sell fuel at the commercial bank exchange rate set at LBP3,900/US$.
The few petrol stations that remained open issued a public call for protection, as they said the situation has become “dangerous”.
“Today, given that the situation is out of control, as the Airport Road station is one of the few stations in Lebanon that continues to function, we appeal to the security forces, the Lebanese army, state security, internal security forces and public security to intervene and control the matter and organize the cars and motorcycles and addressing traffic jam,” the appeal quoted by the NNA read.
Calls for disobedience
In northern Lebanon, nearly twenty people were wounded in overnight scuffles from Saturday to Sunday between security forces and protesters, AFP reported.
“18 people, both civilians, and soldiers were injured, including four who were hospitalized,” said the Emergency and Relief Corps, a local medical charity that dispatched ambulances to treat the wounded.
Rubber bullets and shrapnel from stun grenades accounted for some of the injuries, a spokesperson for the charity told AFP.
The army said 10 soldiers were wounded in the Tripoli clashes, the majority in a single incident that allegedly involved a group of protesters on motorcycles throwing stun grenades at personnel.
Calm returned to the city on Sunday after protesters tried to storm official buildings overnight, including a branch of the central bank, to which the army was deployed.
But on Monday, Tripoli municipality workers and a number of protesters closed the main road next to Al-Nour Square in Tripoli with burning tires, waste containers and stones. The army was deployed at the location, the NNA reported.
The Islamic organizations in Tripoli held a “consultative meeting” and condemned “all manifestations of violence and attacks on civilians, security forces, and public and private property.”
They also called for “civil disobedience, as a civilized response to the system that exhausted the country and the people.”
In an interview with Asharq A-Awsat on Monday, the Lebanese minister of Interior Mohammad Fahmi said he feared more chaos across the country, as crime rates have gone up in the past few months, with an increased number of lootings and robberies.
“As long as the situation persists, then the chaos will grow, but it will not turn into total chaos,” he said. “We will use all of our might to uphold the law and protect the people and public and private properties,” he vowed.