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Fresh clashes hit Lebanese cities; officials warn against strife

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Protesters set aflame dumpsters and tiers as they block a road in Sidon, Lebanon, early on December 17, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Security forces have engaged in fresh clashes with protesters in several Lebanese cities, prompting officials to warn against a sectarian strife in the conflict-ridden country.

On Tuesday night and early Wednesday, demonstrators took to the streets in Beirut, Nabatieh, Sidon and Tripoli, blocking roads and torching tents, cars and tiers.

Security forces lobbed tear gas in central Beirut to disperse supporters of the Hezbollah resistance movement and the Amal party, led by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

The Lebanese forces also put up concrete barriers in various Beirut neighborhoods to block the protesters from those areas.

In the northern city of Tripoli, a group of unidentified men set a Christmas on fire at the Nini roundabout and ransacked the office of Mufti Sheikh Malik al-Shaar.

Additionally, groups of men attacked protest tents overnight in the mainly Sunni city of Sidon and the mainly Shia city of Nabatieh.

In a statement issued after a meeting on Tuesday, Berri and caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri urged the Lebanese “not to get dragged toward strife” and to maintain civil peace.

The strife “can only be faced with preserving civil peace and national unity, rejecting incitement and, first and foremost, allowing the security forces and the Lebanese army to perform their roles and implement their tasks in maintaining security and people’s safety as well as protecting public and private properties," read the statement.

A destroyed car is pictured in central Beirut, Lebanon, on December 18, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

“The national need has become more than pressing to speed up forming the government,” it added.

The protests broke out on October 17, when the government introduced a set of economic austerity measures.

Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned on October 29 under pressure from protesters, who accuse the ruling elite of pushing Lebanon towards political turmoil at a time of acute economic crisis.

Currently, Lebanese political parties are engaged in negotiations to resolve the cabinet crisis.

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