As Corona virus continues to spread, hunger is outbreaking throughout Lebanon, prompting people all over the country to protest, regardless of their regions, sects and doctrine. They raise cries of pain on the face of the government and the political class, declaring it a revolution against Coronavirus and an uprising against “hunger”.
On Monday, Feb. 1, three major cities, including the capital Beirut, witnessed clashes between demonstrators and security forces. People were protesting against the deteriorating economic conditions in light of the continuing curfew due to the Coronavirus.
During the protests in Beirut, demonstrators raised slogans holding the political class responsible for the economic collapse and miserable living conditions. They blocked a main road in the capital for about half an hour before security forces reopened it without any confrontations.
Tripoli is rising…
For the third day in a row, the city of Tripoli in the north witnessed protests over the economic situation, amid a refusal to continue in the lockdown. Those events coincided with road block and confrontations with security forces.
“The protesters threw stones at the Tripoli Brigades intensively, in protest against the general closure and reports written against those who violate the closure rules,” local media said.
As a result, the protests developed into confrontations with the security forces that fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters. 30 people were injured, six were in critical conditions and subsequently transferred to hospitals, according to the Lebanese Red Cross.
Lebanese media have not indicated, whether the move was spontaneous or triggered by a specific party. However, the media pointed out that previous protest remained limited and has not developed into confrontations with the security forces.
The percentage of adherence to the general closure procedures in the city of Tripoli is very low, which prompted the security forces to intervene several times to issue arrest reports against violators in the city. Tripoli is the poorest city in Lebanon, more than half of its population lives at or below the poverty line, according to statistics and previous press reports.
The Lebanese Red Cross had reported that 6 ambulances had been brought in, as 41 people were injured. 12 of them were hospitalized, and 29 people were treated on the spot.
Sidon is moving ..
In the city of Saida, south of Lebanon, dozens of activists from various regions of the south participated in a stand, in the middle of the Elia intersection in the city, amid security measures taken by the security forces to protest against the deterioration of living conditions and the citizens’ inability to secure their basic needs.
In addition, the protesters echoed positions denouncing the arbitrary decisions adopted by the political authority that led to the current collapse. Protesters unanimously agreed that the general closure decision “is being paid by the poor.” They launched a demonstration that roamed the streets of Sidon, from Nejmeh Square to Saida Market and ending with Jerusalem Square.
Until the eighth of February, a strict lockdown applies to Lebanon, including a curfew around the clock. This comes after an unprecedented increase in the number of people infected and deaths since the beginning of this year, as Lebanon recorded 282,249 cases, including 2,404 deaths.
Lebanon is witnessing its worst economic crisis, having doubled the poverty rates. That led several economic parties to refuse the restrictions and closure, while the conflict turns into regional, partisan and political, in the face of the tragic health and living conditions that the citizens suffer in the first place.
The violent confrontations that broke out in Tripoli between demonstrators and security forces aroused terror in the hearts of citizens, fearing for their security and property.
Observers warn that some groups, previously suspected in October uprisings, will seek to exploit the suffering of people and push them to confront the security forces. With that they will revive the scenario of confrontation with the army, to bring back into memory confrontations that took place in Al-Beddawi, at the Bab al-Tabbaneh highway, and in Al-Nour Square.
Experts and observers believe that demonstrations will not be peaceful and civilized uprising, as was the case in the uprising of last October 17, but this time it is a “revolution.” Others fear the situation will explode and the course will deviate to bloody shocks, security chaos, political and partisan clashes. This will bring to memories scenes of the fifteen-year civil war that still dominate the political scene in Lebanon.
A Shiite Struggle..
In the south, the conflict between the Hezbollah militia and the Amal Movement has shifted to include the health sector, through the discrimination of the Minister of Health, Hamad Hassan, who is affiliated with Hezbollah, at the expense of the Shiite areas that are affiliated with the Amal Movement. This is similar to what happened in the case of Qana hospital where they transfered a pcr machine to Rachaya Governmental Hospital.
One of the minister’s advisors said that Tire area has enough laboratories, whereas Rachaya lacks laboratories, and that the transfer of the PCR machine was coordinated with the director of Qana hospital.
In the same context, the director of Qana Governmental Hospital, Muhammad Sayegh, denied communicating with the ministry to inform him that they will move the PCR device; it was rather an intended action.
Hezbollah considers the Ministry of Health as one of its institutions. Some citizens confirmed that some associations distribute respirators in a partisan and sectarian manner.
Local media indicated that “the beds in hospitals are now almost completely occupied in all parts of the country, in addition to a severe shortage of oxygen tanks, respirators, and medical teams.”
Journalists pointed out that in Rafic Hariri University Hospital, the main government facility for dealing with Coronavirus, there are currently 40 beds in the intensive care unit, all are full. According to the World Health Organization, the occupancy rate of hospitals in Beirut is 98%.
It is noteworthy that Sharaf Abu Sharaf, the head of the Lebanese Doctors Syndicate and the former Lebanese Minister of Health criticized the ministry’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis, explaining that “it does not have good plans, and its vision is incomplete.”
On January 5, Lebanese President Michel Aoun had signed the exceptional approval for a complete closure, until the morning of February 1, in the context of confronting the spread of the Corona virus in the country. The decision was based on the proposal of the Prime Minister and the ministerial committee charged with following up on the Coronavirus.
Hassan Diab, the head of the Lebanese caretaker government, had expressed earlier his concern about the epidemiological situation in Lebanon, in light of the outbreak of the Coronavirus and the absence of vacant beds in a number of intensive care rooms.