Beirut, Lebanese security forces fired rubber bullets, tear gas and used water cannons to disperse anti-government protesters from central Beirut in clashes that lasted for hours into early Sunday.
The violence around the epicenter of the protest in Beirut was some of the worst since the demonstrations began two months ago.
More than 40 protesters were injured, including some beaten repeatedly with batons by security forces.
The clashes brought the downtown area to a standstill for over eight hours as security forces fired a stream of tear gas canisters at the hundreds of protesters, who set fires in trash cans on the main streets, in part to mitigate the effects of tear gas, according to The Associated Press (AP).
The protesters chanted slogans against security forces and government officials, and pelted police with stones in scenes not seen in the capital since the demonstrations began on Oct. 17. At one point, the scuffles reached the headquarters of one of the main Lebanese political parties, the Kataeb, where many protesters were taking cover. The head of the party, Samy Gemayel, appeared on local TV stations as he tried to separate the protesters from advancing security forces.
Lebanon is facing one of its worst economic crises in decades, and the protesters accuse the ruling political class in place for three decades of mismanagement and corruption.
The violence comes just two days before the president is due to hold talks with different parliamentary blocs to name a new prime minister.
The government headed by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned Oct. 29, two weeks after the nationwide protests began. Political groups have been unable to agree on a new candidate while protesters have been calling for a government unaffiliated with established political parties.
Local TV station LBC showed dozens chanting against Hariri, who is emerging as the favorite candidate despite all the political bickering. The protesters also shouted The people want to bring down the regime and accused government forces of excessive force.
The Red Cross and the Lebanese Civil Defense said at least 46 people were injured and transported to hospitals.
More protests are expected later Sunday.
Source: Bahrain News Agency