Lebanon caretaker PM, President slam violence in Tripoli
TRIPOLI (LEBANON) – The overnight violence in Tripoli was condemned by Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister and president on Friday. During the unrest in the city, protesters who were miffed over a strict lockdown clashed with security personnel and set ablaze the municipality building.
Thursday was the fourth straight night of unrest in one of Lebanon’s poorest cities, after the Beirut government imposed a 24-hour curfew to curb a surge in the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 2,500 people and compounded an economic crisis.
“The criminals who set the municipality on fire and attempted to burn the court…represent a black hatred for Tripoli,” Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in a statement.
“The challenge now is in defeating these criminals by arresting them one by one and referring them to the judicial system.” President Michel Aoun also condemned the violence.
Flames engulfed the Tripoli municipal government building after it caught fire just before midnight on Thursday. Police had been firing tear gas at protesters hurling petrol bombs.
A funeral for a man who died from a gunshot wound on Wednesday night had given fuel to protesters. Security forces said they had fired live rounds to disperse rioters trying to storm the government building.
Diab’s statement did not mention the killing; Human Rights Watch has called for it to be investigated.
“We promise to work quickly to restore the municipality building of Tripoli so that it remains an expression of its dignity and pure heritage,” Diab said.
The lockdown against the coronavirus, in effect since Jan. 11, is piling extra hardship on the poor, now more than half the Lebanese population who get little government aid.
“We are demanding a state, we are demanding a country and we are demanding an improvement to the social and political conditions in Tripoli,” said Rabih Mina, a Tripoli resident who joined the anti-government protests.
The financial meltdown gripping Lebanon could render people more dependent on political factions for aid and security, in a throwback to the 1975-90 civil war era of dominant militias.