BEIRUT (Reuters) – Some major highways in Lebanon reopened on Wednesday, after the army urged protesters to lift roadblocks so that activities could return to normal following 13 days of demonstrations that paralyzed the country and forced the prime minister to resign.
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese police stand near destroyed tents, that were set-up by anti-government protesters in Beirut, Lebanon October 29, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
Tuesday’s resignation toppled the coalition government of Saad al-Hariri, who said he had hit a “dead end” in trying to resolve the crisis unleashed by the huge protests against the ruling elite.
Early on Wednesday, troops cleared one major route north of Beirut after briefly scuffling with demonstrators. A group of soldiers tried to pick up a vehicle blocking the highway before it drove off, al-Jadeed television images showed.
The Ring Bridge in the center of the capital opened after negotiations with some protesters who did not want to leave, saying they wanted more of the authorities to resign. Many protesters stayed on, but did not block the whole road.
In a statement, the army command said people had a right to protest, but that applied “in public squares only”.
The main protest camp in a square in the center of the capital was quiet but was closed to traffic by security forces.
Hariri’s resignation speech on Tuesday came after a crowd loyal to the Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah and Amal movements attacked and destroyed a camp in central Beirut.
The strife was the most serious on the streets of Beirut since 2008, when Hezbollah fighters seized control of the capital in a brief eruption of armed conflict with Lebanese adversaries loyal to Hariri and his allies at the time.
The departure of Hariri, who has been traditionally backed by the West and Sunni Gulf Arab allies, pushes Lebanon into unpredictable political territory.
The protests have compounded Lebanon’s already serious economic woes and banks kept their doors shut on Wednesday.
Reporting by Issam Abdallah and Tom Perry; Writing by Tom Perry and Lisa Barrington; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Andrew Heavens