Welcome back to Beirut… On day one after my return, I called a friend to meet for a drink and she tells me she can’t leave her house cause the army is fighting a group of Hezbollah/Amal protesters right outside her door. In Dahiyeh protests against the power cuts are getting out of hand: after the police arrested some of the protesters, they got shot at and a serious firefight started, which has resulted in the death of one man, an Amal official, up to now. Apparently he was killed by sniper fire while trying to negotiate with the army. At least three people have been wounded. The fighting is still going on. Local TV is showing images of burning cars and army charges on the barricades. My friend just tells me a fuel truck exploded in Chiah too. The protests are apparently spreading to the Gallerie Semaan area now, as well as around the al Hayat hospital where some of the wounded are being treated.
The opposition had announced that they would resume protest actions from today on, but power cuts are a daily occurrence in Lebanon and they have been for at least a year now, so it’s a bit of a feeble excuse to start protesting them all at once.
Update 1: the situation seems to have calmed down in Beirut now – after one army sergeant has been wounded also. Reports indicate that protests have also been held in the south – in Nabatiyeh as well as on the road between Sidon and Tyre. The airport road in Beirut, which passes through Dahiyyeh, seems to have reopened – the protest was originally directed towards closing this road down. PM Siniora meanwhile has asked the head of the power company about the reasons for the power cuts. Anybody could tell him those reasons: fuel tankers are lying at the power stations but the relevant ministries don’t pay them in time and save costs by cutting off the power for several hours a day in different towns and cities – taking care of course to spare their own constituencies as much as possible while hitting the opposition strongholds as much as possible at the same time…
Update 2: the death toll in Beirut has risen to three protesters, and the road between Sidon (Saida) and Tyre (Sour) is now effectively blocked. The road to Baalbak was briefly blocked too.