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Lebanon Survives Vicious Attempt to Instigate War

Lebanon Survives Vicious Attempt to Instigate War

Friday, 29 November, 2019 - 09:30
Lebanese students rally in front of the Ministry of Education during ongoing anti-government protests, in the capital Beirut. (AFP)
Beirut - Hussam Itani
Lebanon survived a coordinated and systematic attempt to create sectarian divisions and the atmosphere of civil war that the Lebanese uprising, which started on October 17, has succeeded to overcome.

The attempt began on Sunday night with a number of simultaneous and anonymous statements calling for a general strike and sit-in in the squares, and even declaring the “end of the peaceful revolution.”

As the parties behind these statements could not be revealed, many linked these calls to organized attempts to stifle the people’s uprising.

A number of demonstrators responded to the call and gathered at several points, including the Ring Bridge in Beirut, Jal el Dib and Zouk, northeast of the capital.

This was followed by an influx of hundreds of young men belonging to the Shiite duo – represented by Amal Movement and Hezbollah - to the streets around the Ring Bridge, wrecking cars and shops, and writing sectarian slogans on walls, which led to widespread public discontent.

Fate intervened that night in the form of a tragedy that killed a man and a woman in a traffic accident. The Shiite duo quickly rushed to exploit it, blaming the demonstrators for the incident and accusing them of throwing stones at the victims’ car, which later proved to be a lie.

The next day, the protesters’ tents in the city of Tyre were attacked and burned by members of the same political parties, while hundreds of their supporters roamed the streets of Beirut on motorcycles, which have become a hallmark of Amal and Hezbollah partisans.

Hundreds of motorcyclists also attempted to enter the southern suburb of Ain al-Rummaneh, where they clashed with residents. On Tuesday, the same groups attacked a peaceful gathering in the city of Baalbek in the Bekaa region.

These coordinated efforts can have two objectives. The first is to revive the sectarian divide that prevailed after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 and to portend a return to civil war by attacking Christian neighborhoods. The second objective is to regain control of the Shiite street, which has started to revolt against its leaders due to the deterioration of the economic situation.

The coordinated moves also came in light of the escalating government crisis, after former Prime Minister Saad Hariri rejected the conditions set by the FPM and Hezbollah on forming a government of politicians with certain figures affiliated with the civil movement. Hariri then refrained from heading any future government.

Motorcycle convoys, sectarian chants and assault on protesters in Tyre and Baalbek sought to surround the uprising and announce its death.

However, the Shiite duo did not take into consideration the effect of the deepening economic and financial crisis on the determination of the protesters.

After warnings issued by a number of importers and traders, strikes began to reach key sectors, where workers are subject to salary cuts or the threat of dismissal under the pretext of lack of liquidity and stagnation of economic movement.

On the other hand, those who insist on keeping the current authority without radical reform do not envisage removing Lebanon from its economic predicament in a way that relieves tension among low-income groups.

By Wednesday evening, after a joint demonstration by mothers from the Shiyah and Ain al-Rummaneh areas, which witnessed some of the heaviest fighting during the civil war, it was possible to say that the recent attempt to abort the revolution had failed thanks to two factors: the pressing political and economic crisis on one hand, and the Lebanese people’s prevailing feeling of belonging to a nation and not to rival political sects.

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