Lebanon security forces fire water canons at protesters in second day of violent clashes
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Dozens of stone-throwing demonstrators defied police water canons in the Lebanese capital Sunday, a day after rare violence between both sides wounded nearly 400 people.
Unprecedented protests have rocked the country since October 17, with citizens from all religious backgrounds demanding the ouster of a political class they view as inept, corrupt and responsible for an ever deepening economic crisis.
On Sunday evening, hundreds of protesters gathered in the rain in central Beirut by a barricaded road that leads to parliament amid heavily deployed security forces.
For a second night in a row, dozens started lobbing stones in the direction of the police behind the metal barricade, crying "revolution, revolution".
The Red Cross said that 10 people had been taken to hospital as a result of renewed clashes on Sunday evening.
Protests Downtown Beirut: 12 teams from the #Lebanese_Red_Cross are intervening. 30 people have been transported, until now, to nearby hospitals and 40 have been treated at the scene. Extra teams are on standby and ready to intervene. pic.twitter.com/4eo0VQgb2B
— Lebanese Red Cross (@RedCrossLebanon) January 19, 2020
One protester taunted the security forces with a flame-throwing aerosol, as others shone bright green laser lights in their direction.
Anti-riot forces responded with water canons, as well as a round of tear gas and rubber bullets, an AFP reporter said.
On Twitter, the security forces called for protesters to avoid throwing "explosives and stones" at personnel.
نطلب من المتظاهرين الابقاء على الطابع السلمي للتظاهر والابتعاد عن الاعتداء على الاملاك الخاصة والعامة والتهجم على عناصر قوى الامن بالمفرقعات والحجارة وغيرها من وسائل الاذية التي لن تنتج سوى الفوضى وخسائر مادية وجسدية.#قوى_الامن pic.twitter.com/pD9y6hr473
— قوى الامن الداخلي (@LebISF) January 19, 2020
The majority of protesters huddled nearby, in rain coats or bright waterproof ponchos, with some clutching umbrellas.
Earlier, a 34-year-old protester called Mazen said he and others were "fed up with politicians".
"After three months of revolution, they have proven to us that they don't change, don't listen, and have nothing to give," he said.
On Saturday, at least 377 people were wounded – both protesters and members of the security forces – according to a toll compiled by AFP from figures provided by the Red Cross and Civil Defence.
An AFP photographer at the scene said security forces fired rubber bullets at stone-throwing protesters as thick clouds of tear gas covered central Beirut.
On Sunday, local television aired the testimonies of relatives of two young men they said were hit in the eyes by rubber bullets.
Human Rights Watch condemned what it called "the brutal use of force unleashed by Lebanon's riot police against largely peaceful demonstrators".
"Riot police showed a blatant disregard for their human rights obligations, instead launching tear gas canisters at protesters' heads, firing rubber bullets in their eyes and attacking people at hospitals and a mosque," said its deputy Middle East director Michael Page.
The authorities must act quickly "to end this culture of impunity for police abuse", he said.
Saturday's clashes began after dozens of protesters threw stones and plant pots at security forces, and tried to charge police lines near parliament with traffic signs.
The security forces responded with water cannon and thick tear gas.