Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri gave a 72-hour deadline on Friday to his “partners in government” to stop obstructing reforms and threatened to take a different approach otherwise, but stopped short of resigning.
Hariri, addressing massive protests across the country, said Lebanon was going through an “unprecedented, difficult time”.
He added that his efforts to enact reforms have been blocked by others in government whom he did not name.
Lebanon’s biggest protests in a decade are reminiscent of the 2011 Arab revolts that toppled four presidents. They brought people from all sects and walks of life on to the streets, holding banners and chanting slogans calling on the government of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to resign.
At sunset, protesters poured through the villages and towns of Lebanon’s south, north and east as well as the capital Beirut. No political leader, Muslim or Christian, was spared their wrath.
Across the country, they chanted for top leaders, including President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to step down.
The mood was a mixture of rage, defiance and hope.
A security source said one protester was killed and four wounded after the bodyguards of a former member of parliament fired into the air in the northern city of Tripoli.
Fires burned in the street of Beirut. Pavements were littered with smashed glass and torn billboards. Demonstrators reached the edge of Aoun’s palace in Baabda.
Addressing protesters from the presidential palace, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law, said the government must work to stop corruption and avoid imposing new taxes.
“Any alternative to the current government would be far worse and might lead the country into catastrophe and strife,” said Bassil, dismissing calls for the administration to resign.
The latest unrest was prompted by anger over inflation, a new tax proposal.