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Gunmen Suppress Demonstrators in South Lebanon

Gunmen Suppress Demonstrators in South Lebanon

Sunday, 20 October, 2019 - 07:30
A demonstrator holds a tire during a protest against the government in Nabatiyeh, southern Lebanon, October 18, 2019. (Reuters)
Beirut - Youssef Diab
Popular movements in the southern Lebanese city of Tyre took a violent turn Saturday, with dozens of gunmen - reportedly belonging to the Amal movement - confronting demonstrators by aiming guns at them and sometimes firing to break up the rallies.

Video footage was posted on social media showing a number of suspected Amal militants attacking demonstrators inside the neighborhoods of Tyre and Nabatiyeh, which the group implicitly acknowledged, by stressing its rejection of the armed manifestations in the streets and announcing that it was “conducting an investigation to determine the responsibilities and take the necessary measures.”

The movement has also asked the security services to “exercise their role in protecting citizens, including demonstrators.”

In addition, a source close to Amal told Asharq Al-Awsat that armed attacks against the peaceful demonstration were “not the result of a decision by the Amal leadership but by a personal drive of these militants.”

Amal is headed by parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “We respect the right of demonstrating and expressing opinion in all of Lebanon, but people were surprised by elements tucked in the heart of the demonstration who started to insult the Amal movement and its symbols (Berri, his wife, Randa, MPs and ministers), and attacked private property.”

A Shiite political source, opposed to Hezbollah and Amal, accused members of the movement of burning the Tyre Rest House - owned by Randa Berri - to justify the suppression and assault against demonstrators.

The source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Amal and Hezbollah would try to “prevent demonstrations at any cost” in their areas of influence, pointing out that they “dread the audacity of the people after breaking the barrier of fear and storming the headquarters of the party and the movement.”

Lebanon has been swept up in nationwide protests against the ruling elite over their proposals to introduce new taxes, as well as against their perceived corruption. They have been demanding sweeping change in the system, singling out President Michel Aoun, his son-in-law Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Speaker Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

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