Beirut gets into celebratory mood after more than 12 tense years


BEIRUT: The streets of Lebanon’s capital rediscovered on Sunday night the vitality they have missed since the assassination of then-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. The New Year celebrations attracted more than 25,000 people to Parliament Square and the surrounding streets and they stayed until dawn in an area more often the scene of protests, not parties.

A source from Beirut municipality told Arab News: “The crowd, which included children and adults, entered free of charge, and we did not witness any security violations, which contributed to the revival of the area and will encourage us to organize similar events in the future.”

Army and internal security patrols were deployed on roads and in front of churches and nightclubs as a precautionary step and cars were banned from using the areas around assembly points to prevent accidents.
The General Directorate of Internal Security Forces announced in a statement, “No major security incidents occurred, and there were no casualties resulting from traffic accidents.”
However, despite the warnings of authorities to refrain from the habitual celebratory gunfire, four people were “slightly” injured by it. “Many shooters were identified and two of them were arrested. Investigations are continuing to arrest the others,” the statement said.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri visited several security centers during the night and was briefed about the security arrangements. He also paid a surprise visit to Parliament Square and addressed the people, saying, “This is Beirut, the jewel of the Middle East, and this is Lebanon, and we hope to see all of Lebanon like this, not just Beirut.”
Hariri denied reports of a political crisis in the country, calling for an “end to such gossip,” adding in a statement to reporters, “Everything can be solved with positivity. I’m always optimistic. We’ve been through more difficult situations and managed to overcome them.”
Hariri also stressed his belief that security and military institutions have no place in politics, adding that “both President Michel Aoun and the Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri are also keen on this issue.”
As for the disagreement between President Aoun and Speaker Berri regarding a decree for promoting some officers, Hariri said he had started mediation between them “and there is responsiveness.”
Hariri took to Twitter to praise “the Lebanese army, the internal security forces, and everyone involved in providing security and safety to citizens.”


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