Army enters central Beirut amid fierce clashes

The move marks an escalation in violence in the Lebanese capital, where anti-govt protestors are clashing with security forces

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The Lebanese army arrived central Beirut late Sunday, clearing two main squares, where clashes between protestors and security forces – in their second day - left at least 20 people injured, sources told Al Arabiya News Channel.

The move appears to be a clear escalation in the protests, which began on Saturday evening in the Lebanese capital's Martyr's Square.

Around the same time the army moved in, Internal Security Forces (ISF) cleared the Martyr’s and Riad al-Solh squares, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

On Sunday, around 200 youths, some wearing scarves or masks to cover their faces, threw stones and bottles filled with sand at police and tried to pull down security barricades, an AFP correspondent said. Footage shown on social media appeared to show a man lying on the group, with blood pouring from his head.

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The demonstrators were calling on the government to step down for mishandling a dispute over uncollected garbage in the streets for weeks, extending an online campaign named “You Stink” by activists.

But the protesters began to turn their attention towards Lebanon's grid-locked government, and frequently chant “Down with the regime” and “Freedom,” slogans borrowed from the Arab Spring uprisings that toppled several governments in the region.

Meanwhile on Saturday, in a response to the protests, Lebanon’s prime minister threatened to resign, warning rival parties in his unity cabinet that the state faced collapse because of paralysis that has come to a head with its failure to resolve a crisis over rubbish disposal.

I warn that we are going are going towards collapse if matters continue

Lebanese PM Tammam Salam

“I warn that we are going are going towards collapse if matters continue,” Prime Minister Tammam Salam said in a televised address.

“Frankly, I have not and will not be a partner in this collapse. Let all officials and political forces bear their responsibilities.”

Salam’s government has suffered almost complete paralysis since it took office last year as wider crises in the Middle East, including the war in neighboring Syria, have exacerbated Lebanon’s own political and sectarian divisions.

(With Reuters and AFP)