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The city of Tripoli in Lebanon has been shaken for several days by demonstrations against poor living conditions as the country is going through a serious economic crisis, marked in particular by a shortage of gasoline and medicines. On Wednesday, June 30, the situation became dangerously tense when demonstrators began to shoot in the air, while the army was deployed in the city. Our Observer in Tripoli recounts this day under high tension.
Against the backdrop of a sharp depreciation of the Lebanese pound, the Lebanese government has reduced its import of hydrocarbon products in recent months, which has caused severe shortages of gasoline at the pumps across the country.
There is also a shortage of fuel. However, many Lebanese use it to run generators, because the electricity supplied by the state is undergoing drastic rationing.
In Tripoli, the country’s second city, protests against these poor conditions have almost escalated: in recent days, groups of armed individuals have deployed in the city and forced businesses to close to show their support for the protests.
On June 26, protesters also attempted to storm public buildings, including an agency of the Banque du Liban. The clashes left around 20 injured, according to Lebanese media.
On Wednesday June 30, the Lebanese army was strongly deployed in the streets of the city in an attempt to restore calm. However, this did not prevent friction with the demonstrators. Several videos, relayed in particular on Twitter, show soldiers retreating in front of demonstrators throwing projectiles at them. In other images as well, men in civilian clothes are seen shooting guns.
– عبد الرحمٰن السّيد (@abedgsayed) June 30, 2021
Soldiers on a tank withdrew by firing in the air in front of demonstrators who threw projectiles at them, in the district of Bab el-Tebbaneh, on Wednesday, June 30.
Here, an army vehicle withdraws in front of a group of demonstrators in Bab el-Tebbaneh. We hear shots, but we do not know the origin.
Firearms are very common among the population in Lebanon. According to a study carried out by Lebanon Statistics in October 2020, 31.5% of Lebanese households have a hunting or military-type weapon.
“The situation can escalate at any time”
Mustapha (pseudonym) is a journalist in Tripoli. He tells about the atmosphere in the city during this day of protests.
Areas of the city where the situation was most tense on Wednesday [30 juin] are the districts of Bab el-Tebbaneh and Kobbé. It is in these neighborhoods that armed individuals have appeared, sometimes blocking the roads. This has caused concern among the population and fear that the situation will escalate. However, other areas of the city have remained relatively quiet.
On Wednesday, the army was therefore deployed in the most sensitive areas of the city, Bab el-Tebbané and Kobbé, to restore order. But after a while, she withdrew in the face of the protesters to avoid escalating tensions.
At the same time, elements of the marine commandos were called in as reinforcements, including snipers who were deployed on the roofs of buildings.
ظهور مسلح في طرابلس شمال لبنان ومسلحون يطالبون عناصر الجيش بإخلاء المدينة pic.twitter.com/z92Gxy18hr
– ﮼مـصـدر ﮼مسـؤول (@ MMas2ool) June 30, 2021
This video, filmed from an apartment, shows a man in civilian clothes standing in the middle of the road with a gun, in the Kobbé district. Gunshots are also heard. Video broadcast on Wednesday June 30.
أصحاب المحال التجارية يقفلون مؤسساتهم خوفاً من تدهور الوضع الأمني في مدينة طرابلس وسط معلومات مسساتهم خوفاً من تدهور الوضع الأمني في مدينة طرابلس وسط معلومات معلومات مالقطيرة pic.twitter.com/kYA93Mp1LL
– ﮼مـصـدر ﮼مسـؤول (@ MMas2ool) June 30, 2021
Two men on scooters, the passenger of which is armed with a rifle, discuss briefly with another civilian armed with a rifle. Then the latter fires a burst in the air. Video filmed in the Kobbé district, Wednesday June 30.
Fortunately, the situation was resolved in the evening: senior army officers met with local officials, and finally the army agreed to donate several hundred liters of fuel to the inhabitants so that they could have electricity a few days.
Electricity supplied by the state is rationed to two hours a day in Tripoli. If the people do not have the fuel to run the generators, they have no other solution. And that’s what ignited the powder.
Thursday July 1, the army was still deployed in the city, where a precarious calm reigned. But it can escalate at any time.
Since the beginning of the week, demonstrators have blocked several roads across Lebanon to protest against the serious shortages of gasoline, but also against the fact that its price rose, Tuesday, June 29, by more than 30%, after a partial lifting of state subsidies on hydrocarbon products.
– >> Read on Observers: In Lebanon, endless waits in front of gas stations degenerate into armed clashes