Beirut Protesters Say Army Troops Join Police To Disperse Anti-Government Rallies

BEIRUT (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 19th October, 2019) The Lebanese army units have been deployed to Beirut to help police anti-government disperse demonstrators, one of the protesters told a Sputnik correspondent by phone, adding that the military personnel used rubber bullets to suppress the rally.

The protests against the poor economic situation in the cash-strapped country have been underway since Thursday.

"A large number of troops have been concentrated at the Place of Martyrs and Banks Street. Major clashes are underway. The troops are firing bullets and the police are using tear gas," the witness said late on Friday.

The activist said there were a lot of injured people among the demonstrators. The security forces are detaining all those who they are able to capture. Activists, in their turn, are throwing stones on the security forces and police.

The military personnel and police partially pushed the demonstrators away from the Place of Martyrs in central Beirut.

Nearly all roads leading to the Lebanese capital Beirut are currently paralyzed. The demonstrators closed them off and are burning tires there. The major Beirut-Damascus international highway and the main road leading to the airport have been blocked off since Thursday. A lot of people had to walk to the airport in order not to miss their flights.

On Friday, President Michel Aoun held a meeting with representatives of the activists and pledged to make efforts to meet their demands.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, in a statement, gave 72 hours to the cabinet to answer the activists' questions.

The demonstrations have been sparked by the authorities' move to introduce a fee for online calls made via WhatsApp and similar mobile applications, which infuriated the public. The measure was aimed at raising additional funds for Lebanon's debt-ridden economy.

Despite the tax was abandoned early on Friday, the protests continued. On Friday, the security forces began dispersing them with tear gas. According to media reports, dozens of people were injured in the operation.