Three killed in brawls over fuel scarcity in Lebanon

Shortages have been blamed on smuggling, hoarding and a lack of imports

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Three men were killed in Lebanon on Monday as tensions over scarce fuel supplies descended into violence involving knives, guns and a hand grenade, the state-run National News Agency reported.

Lebanese have faced months of severe fuel shortages that have prompted long queues at petrol stations and plunged the country into long periods of darkness.

The shortages have been blamed on smuggling, hoarding and the inability of authorities to secure deliveries of imported fuel.

The crisis worsened when the government reduced subsidies on fuel during a deepening financial crisis that began in 2019.

The situation is very hard, and we can’t handle it much longer
Fadi Abu Shakra, spokesman for fuel distributors

The Lebanese currency has plummeted and now sells at 20,000 pounds to the dollar on the black market, while the official rate is fixed at 1,500 pounds to the dollar.

The price of about 3.8 litres of fuel has increased by more than 220 per cent in the past year, leading to panic and a thriving black market.

The fuel crisis has turned violent before, with motorists clashing at petrol stations after long waits and when fuel ran out.

But the latest deaths reflect growing frustration over a problem that has only grown worse.

Two men were killed when a gunfight erupted over a deal about a fuel sale in the north of the country, the National News Agency reported.

The violence started in the area of Beddawi and extended to Bab Al Tibaneh in the city of Tripoli, it reported.

The men exchanged fire apparently after a disagreement and at one point a hand grenade was thrown, the agency reported.

Troops fanned out and were stationed around the local hospital. There was heavy gunfire during the men’s funerals.

The person responsible for the deaths handed himself into authorities, local media reported.

The other death happened after a fist-fight broke out at a petrol station in Bakhoun, a village in the northern Danniyeh region.

A man was shot in the melee and was taken to a hospital in the nearby town of Zgharta, where he died of his wounds, the agency reported.

The gunman handed himself in to authorities.

“The situation is very hard, and we can’t handle it much longer,” Fadi Abu Shakra, a spokesman for fuel distributors, told Al Jadeed TV.

Lebanon's national electricity company, dependent on imported fuel, has expanded a rolling power cut system, delivering only about one hour of electricity a day to homes and businesses.

This prompted private generator operators to turn off their engines to ration the consumption of fuel, plunging entire areas into darkness for hours.

Hospital officials said they had been unable to secure diesel, putting some medical centres at risk of closure.

Updated: August 09, 2021, 2:31 PM