Lebanon army starts clearing roadblocks after eight days of protests

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The Lebanese army said on Wednesday it had started clearing roadblocks eight days after protesters burnt tires to block roadways across the country in anger over the country’s economic meltdown and political deadlock.

“As a result of the tragic accidents and violations that took place units of the army started this morning opening closed roads,” a statement posted on the official Twitter page of the Lebanese army said.

President Michel Aoun had asked the army and security forces to clear the obstructions on Monday after a meeting with top officials.

Lebanon’s financial crisis, which erupted in 2019, has wiped out jobs, locked people out of their bank deposits and raised the risk of widespread hunger.

Groups of protesters have been burning tires daily to block roads since the Lebanese currency tumbled to a new low last week, deepening popular anger over the country’s financial collapse.

Three people died in car accidents amidst the roadblocks on Monday including two young men who died when they drove into a truck that was parked across a road to block traffic.

The incident prompted Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai, the country’s top Christian cleric, to caution against chaotic road blocks.

In a sermon, he assured demonstrators that he stood by them and felt their pain but that people on the road are not the cause of the country’s problems and should not be the ones who are punished.

Demonstrators carry a tire to be set on fire during a protest against the fall in Lebanese pound currency and mounting economic hardships, in Zouk, Lebanon March 8, 2021. (Reuters)
Demonstrators carry a tire to be set on fire during a protest against the fall in Lebanese pound currency and mounting economic hardships, in Zouk, Lebanon March 8, 2021. (Reuters)

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