Lebanon’s caretaker Interior Minister Raya El-Hassan has ordered the country’s law enforcement agencies to open a “rapid and transparent” inquiry, after dozens of people were wounded in clashes during recent demonstrations that had erupted in a barricaded central district of Beirut.
In a statement released on Sunday, Interior Minister Raya El-Hassan demanded the identification of those responsible for the most violent episode since the largely peaceful anti-government protests began on October 17.
“I have asked the command of the Internal Security Forces to conduct a speedy and transparent probe to identify the culprits and the responsibilities in order to take further measures,” al-Hassan added.
She warned against “infiltrators” seeking to use protests to provoke “confrontations”.
The protesters gathering in central Beirut on Saturday night were specifically angry at the lack of consensus among major political parties required to form a new government that could address the economic problems in the country.
Police used rubber bullets and tear gas after a number of protesters tried to break through steel barriers blocking the way to the parliament and government headquarters.
Witnesses said police forces, deployed in large numbers, were confronting protesters in the street by beating and chasing them.
Lebanese civil defense said it took 36 injured people to hospital and treated 54 at the scene
The Lebanese Red Cross transported 15 casualties to hospital and treated 37 people on site. An official with the organization said that both protesters and security forces were injured, with some affected by tear gas and others struck by hurled stones.
Lebanese security forces said on Twitter about 20 from its ranks were hospitalized, while others had been injured and treated on the spot.
The clashes are the latest to come from a wave of protests against the corruption and economic woes in Lebanon which began in late October and forced Prime Minister Sa’ad al-Hariri to resign.
The protests began after Hariri’s government decided to implement new tax plans at a time of increasing economic hardship for the Lebanese.
Protesters in Lebanon have stopped blocking roads and setting up barricades, and instead shifted to holding sit-ins at state-affiliated sites.
They say they will maintain pressure on the political establishment until their demands for the departure of the ruling elite and an end to chronic economic mismanagement and corruption are met.
Growth in Lebanon has plummeted in the wake of endless political deadlocks and an economic crisis in recent years.
Devaluation of Lebanon’s national currency has lowered confidence in the country’s banking system as foreign donors refuse to help unless there is a government determined to enact long-anticipated economic reforms.
Successive governments have also failed to address a waste management crisis or improve the electricity grid, which is plagued by daily power cuts.