Riot police in the capital of Lebanon launched tear gas to disperse men who attempted to attack a key protest camp against the government, unleashing street battles that lasted for hours.
The clashes on Saturday marked some of the worst in Beirut since demonstrations began against the entire political establishment of the country almost two months ago.
The riots began when dozens of men, some with masks, threw stones at security forces and threw firecrackers at one end of the protest camp.
Security forces fired tear gas to keep men away, but clashes continued.
Riot police use tear gas to prevent protesters against the political establishment from approaching the parliament square in downtown Beirut, they also beat protesters … # LebanonProtests pic.twitter.com/AXFcvsAhAb
– Zeina Khodr (@ZeinakhodrAljaz) December 14, 2019
The increase in tensions occurs when politicians have not agreed to form a new government. There are only two days left for consultations between the president and the parliamentary blocs to appoint a prime minister.
Protesters who demand a review of the country's political systems want the formation of a new government that is not affiliated with established parties.
The government headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29, two weeks after protests began across the country against a ruling elite blamed for state corruption and for leading Lebanon into the worst economic crisis since the civil war from 1975-90.
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The youth attacked the epicenter of anti-government protests on Saturday, apparently trying to assault him to avoid a meeting of anti-government protesters. The attackers approached the protest camp in downtown Beirut from a neighborhood known as a fortress for supporters of the Shiite groups of Hezbollah and Amal.
It was the second time this week that Hezbollah and Amal supporters attempted to attack the protest camp, angry at the protesters' criticism of their leaders.
Later on Saturday, hundreds of anti-government protesters gathered outside parliament, also in the center of Beirut, and several people attacked the demonstration, which caused security forces to fire tear gas to push them back.
The fighting spread to the streets surrounding the protest camp, wrapping the area with the tear gas smoke. Security forces chased protesters around the center of Beirut, some fired several tear gas fires from armored vehicles with multiple launchers.
The National News Agency reported that some shop windows in the commercial part of downtown Beirut were destroyed by vandals. An Associated Press journalist saw a security member wounded in the eye by a stone thrown by a protester.
Al Jazeera and news agencies