Lebanon’s prime minister resigned Tuesday, bowing to one of the central demands of anti-government demonstrators shortly after baton-wielding Hezbollah thugs rampaged through the main protest camp in Beirut, torching tents, smashing plastic chairs and chasing away protesters. Hezbollah terrorizes Lebanese protesters. Hariri, to stop them, quits.
The demonstrators later returned to the camp in time to hear the news that Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced he would step down after hitting a “dead end” in trying to resolve the crisis, which has paralyzed the country for nearly two weeks. The protesters erupted in cheers at the news.
HEZBOLLAH TERRORIZES LEBANESE PROTESTERS
The Hezbollah rampage marked a violent turning point in Lebanon’s protests. The protesters called for the resignation of the government; in addition to the overthrow of the political class that has dominated the country since the 1975-1990 civil war. Factions allied with Hezbollah dominate the Lebanese government. The United States has labeled Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
Hariri had reluctantly worked with those factions as part of a national unity government. One that failed to address an increasingly severe economic and fiscal crisis.
In resigning, Hariri said:
I tried all this time to find an exit and listen to the voice of the people and protect the country from the security and economic dangers. Today, to be honest with you, I have hit a dead end, and it is time for a big shock to confront the crisis.
TAXATION FOR MORE CORRUPTION
A proposed tax on the WhatsApp messenger service ignited protests on Oct. 17. The proposed taxation, aimed at filling the pockets of the 30 families that control Lebanon, sent hundreds of thousands of people into the streets in the largest demonstrations in more than a decade. The protests soon widened to include other economic issues.
They were largely peaceful, with only occasional minor scuffles with security forces; but that changed early Tuesday, when Hezxbollah thugs began confronting protesters who were blocking roads.
HEZBOLLAH THUGS ATTACK PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATORS
The men initially presented themselves as disgruntled residents frustrated by the country’s paralysis. Later, protesters could hear the Hezbollah thugs chant “At your service, Hussein,” a Shiite religious slogan. They also chanted “God, Nasrallah, and the whole Dahiyeh,” referring to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and the group’s stronghold in the southern suburbs of Beirut.
They launched their attack about midday on the main protest camp in Beirut. The rallies swell at night, but there were only a few dozen protesters in the square when the Hezbollah supporters arrived.
Soldiers and riot police initially moved in to separate the groups; but they were unable to prevent the Hezbollah thugs from storming Martyrs’ Square in central Beirut. Hezbollah thugs lashed out at reporters covering the melee, kicking some of them and reaching for their cameras.
It was unclear how many people the Hezbollah thugs wounded.
The protesters armed themselves with wooden batons and metal poles as the Hezbollah thugs approached. They fled, however, when Hezbollah thugs reinforcements arrived in large numbers. Security forces later fired tear gas to disperse them, but only after they had destroyed and set fire to several tents.
FOREIGN POWER BUT NOT HEZBOLLAH CORRUPTION
Nasrallah had criticized the protests last week. He accused unspecified foreign powers of exploiting them to undermine his group and saying they threatened to drag the country into civil war.
Hezbollah was the only armed group in Lebanon to maintain its weapons after the civil war, saying they were needed to defend the country from Israel. Instead, they use them today to threaten the Lebanese people.
Hezbollah is widely seen as being more militarily powerful than even the Lebanese armed forces.
Groups of protesters eventually returned to the main squares and began repairing their tents. Others went back to blocking the roads. They could be heard chanting one of the main slogans of the protests, “All means all,” which is seen as referring to all of Lebanon’s political factions, including Hezbollah and its allies.