Protesters and army clash in Lebanon after Hariri announces resignation

Demonstrators block roads across Beirut as Saad Hariri gives up on government formation

Supporters of resigned prime minister-designate Saad Hariri blocked roads and clashed with the army in Beirut and across Lebanon, hours after he announced he was giving up his attempts to form a government.

Hundreds gathered at the major Beirut junctions as news of Mr Hariri’s resignation broke, bringing parts of the capital to a standstill.

On Tarik Al Jadida, a major thoroughfare leading out of the capital to Beirut airport, fires started by demonstrators pumped plumes of black smoke into the sky.

The Lebanese Army fired warning shots into the air and hundreds of protesters retaliated by throwing rocks and bottles.

The vastly outnumbered soldiers were soon forced to withdraw, standing off until the protests ran out of steam.

Demonstrators also clashed with the army at Cola junction and several people were taken to hospital with injuries, the Red Cross said.

While furious at President Michel Aoun over his lack of co-operation with Mr Hariri’s attempts to form a Cabinet for nine months, demonstrators said they had been also been forced to the streets by the country's steep decline.

“We closed the street because of President Aoun and the situation in Lebanon, not for Hariri," said Mahmoud, 26, who has been unemployed since protests erupted across Lebanon in October 2019.

“We don’t want to fight the army but they are forcing the army in front of us, and the army is shooting real bullets at us.

“We don’t have the money to eat, or the money to survive. We have only the energy to protest, to burn tyres. It is the only thing we have left.”

Behind him, men with scarves across their faces drenched the tarmac with petrol before setting fire to it.

There were also demonstrations in Sour, where a video posted to social media showed demonstrators hijacking a fuel lorry and riding it down a main road earlier in the day.

The day was another grim milestone in Lebanon’s collapse.

After he resigned, Mr Hariri said his party, the Future Movement, would not name another candidate for the post, and he criticised Mr Aoun for a lack of co-operation in negotiations.

He said he decided to resign after Mr Aoun demanded a blocking minority of ministers within Cabinet.

“If we formed Michel Aoun's government then the country wouldn’t be saved,” Mr Hariri said, looking gaunt and tired.

“I was more co-operative than I should have been. President Aoun does not want to co-operate with Saad Hariri. Full stop.

“There has been no communication with Hezbollah and I'll leave it to the people to judge whether they helped in government formation."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Mr Hariri's resignation was "yet another disappointing development for the Lebanese people".

"It is critical that a government committed and able to implement priority reforms be formed now," Mr Blinken said.

He mentioned concerns about Lebanon's economic downfall and problems in getting basic needs to citizens.

"Leaders in Beirut must urgently put aside partisan differences and form a government that serves the Lebanese people," Mr Blinken said.

"That is what the people of Lebanon desperately need."

Updated: July 16th 2021, 7:13 PM
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