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Friday , January 24 2020

Concern on financial collapse in Lebanon – Crisis deepens

A worker stands at a gas station that is closed during a protest against tight supply of dollars from the central bank in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. Scores of Lebanese businesses have closed in recent months and thousands of employees were either laid off or are getting half their salaries amid the crisis. Local banks have imposed capital controls worsening the economic conditions amid a liquidity crisis and shortage in U.S. dollars.(AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

BEIRUT, Nov 28, (Agencies): Hundreds of Lebanese women marched across a former front line in the Lebanese capital Wednesday carrying white roses and Lebanese flags to denounce overnight clashes between rival groups that injured dozens of people.

They pledged no return to civil war. But amid a political impasse after 40 days of protests, sectarian and political rivalries are awakening, with scuffles breaking out daily, including in areas that were deadly front lines during the country’s 1975-90 conflict.

The tiny Mediterranean country is also reeling under the worst financial crisis in decades with unprecedented capital controls, and as tempers fl are, there are real concerns Lebanon could be sliding toward a prolonged period of instability. “We are standing before two dangers that are racing with each other, the danger of financial collapse and the danger of security collapse. It is an unprecedented situation,” said Nabil Bou Monsef, deputy editor-inchief of the An-Nahar newspaper.

A gas station pump is closed during a protest against tight supply of dollars from the central bank in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. Scores of Lebanese businesses have closed in recent months and thousands of employees were either laid off or are getting half their salaries amid the crisis. Local banks have imposed capital controls worsening the economic conditions amid a liquidity crisis and shortage in U.S. dollars.(AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

The overnight clashes — mostly fistfights and stone throwing between supporters and opponents of Lebanese President Michel Aoun — erupted in cities and towns across the country, injuring dozens of people, and 16 people were detained for their involvement, the Lebanese Red Cross and the army said.

President Michel Aoun has yet to hold consultations with parliamentary blocs on choosing a new prime minister after the government resigned a month ago. Outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who was Aoun’s and the militant Hezbollah’s favorite to lead a new Cabinet, withdrew his candidacy for the premiership, saying he hoped to clear the way for a solution to the political impasse after over 40 days of protests.

Protesters have resorted to road closures and other tactics to pressure politicians into responding to their demands for a new government. The most recent violence first began Sunday night after supporters of the two main Shiite groups, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, attacked protesters on Beirut’s Ring Road.

During the civil war, that thoroughfare had connected predominantly Muslim neighborhoods in the city’s west with Christian areas in the east. Intense clashes took place Tuesday night between people in the Shiite suburb of Chiyah and the adjacent Christian area of Ein Rummaneh, where stones were hurled between supporters of Hezbollah and rival groups supporting the right-wing Christian Lebanese Forces.

A shooting in Ein Rummaneh in April 1975 triggered the 15-year civil war that killed nearly 150,000 people. Also on Tuesday night, supporters and opponents of Aoun engaged in fistfights and stone throwing in the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest, injuring 24 people.

Seven were hospitalized. In the mountain town of Bikfaya, 10 people were injured, including five who were hospitalized, after scuffles and stone throwing between Aoun’s supporters and supporters of the right-wing Christian Lebanese Phalange Party, according to the Red Cross.

The violence broke out after a convoy of dozens of vehicles carrying Aoun supporters drove into the town, which has been historically a Phalange stronghold. On Thursday, about 300 women marched on the former front line between Ein Rummaneh and Chiyah after meeting each other in the middle and exchanging white roses. Some held banners that read: “All one nation” and “All one pain.” “No to civil war!” they shouted. But in the absence of a government and any political solution, analysts say more turmoil and instability is inevitable.

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