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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

Published: Updated:

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.

Lebanese protesters carry an injured girl during clashes with riot police (AFP)
Lebanese protesters carry an injured girl during clashes with riot police (AFP)

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.

Lebanese activists clash with riot police  (AP)
Lebanese activists clash with riot police (AP)

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.

 Lebanese riot police seen firing tear gas
Lebanese riot police seen firing tear gas

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.

Lebanese protesters set a police motorcycle on fire as they are sprayed by riot police using water cannons during a protest against the ongoing trash crisis, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015.  (AP)
Lebanese protesters set a police motorcycle on fire as they are sprayed by riot police using water cannons during a protest against the ongoing trash crisis, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. (AP)

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.”

Protesters seen starting a fire (Reuters)
Protesters seen starting a fire (Reuters)

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)