Increased tension in Lebanon as security forces escalate violence

BEIRUT – Demonstrations in and around Beirut have increased tensions throughout the city as police and security forces respond with increasing violence.

The demonstrations, which began in mid-October, are the result of widespread dissatisfaction with the country’s economic situation, as well as corruption and high unemployment.

Recently the Internal Security Forces are accused of escalating the situation by attacking protesters indiscriminately and without warning, employing riot batons and teargas. The demonstrations and demonstrators that have to this point been peaceful, have begun to reply to police violence by throwing stones and firecrackers of various kinds.

Over the past two days, dozens of people have been reported to have been seriously injured. According to the Red Cross, 45 protesters have been injured, 35 of whom have had to seek emergency medical care.

The demonstrations have on several occasions during the week damaged banks and other buildings. The Prime Minister and members of his cabinet have denounced the protests.

Following an incident where security forces committed acts of violence against the press, caretaker Minister of the Interior Raya Haffar el Hassan, both condemned the excessive force and defended the security forces, “We strongly denounce violence against the press, but believe the security forces are very tired.” She continued, “It is totally unacceptable and I take responsibility for the use of force because I am the head of the pyramid. But, you should stand in their shoes and tell me what happens.”