The Lebanese army has called on demonstrators to unblock roads following the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the aftermath of about two weeks of anti-government protests nationwide.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the army command acknowledged the Lebanese people’s right to “peaceful demonstration and expression of opinion in public squares only.”
The army urged “all demonstrators to initiate the opening of all closed routes to restore life back to normal, in implementation of the law and the rules of public order.”
Also on Wednesday, Lebanese troops managed to clear the Jal al-Dib highway, north of Beirut, after briefly scuffling with demonstrators.
The Al Jadeed TV network aired footage showing soldiers trying to pick up a vehicle blocking the highway before it drove off.
At the Ring Bridge, which connects east and west Beirut, a security officer tried to persuade crowds to clear the way to nearby hospitals.
The Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper reported that protesters had agreed to open the roads and voluntarily removed tents set up on the Jal al-Dib highway.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri stepped down on Tuesday, surrendering to one of the demands of the protesters, who accuse the ruling political elite of dragging the country to economic collapse.
Hariri said he had reached a “dead end” in trying to resolve the crisis that has paralyzed Lebanon for two weeks.
The protests began on October 17 when the government proposed imposing a tax on Whatsapp calls, along with other austerity measures.
The protests have compounded Lebanon’s already serious economic woes. Banks kept their doors shut on Wednesday.
According to the constitution, Hariri’s cabinet would stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed.
Berri ‘tried to persuade Hariri not to resign’
In remarks published Wednesday by local daily Al Joumhouria, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said he had tried to dissuade Hariri from quitting.
“We tried everything to contain the situation … and I personally worked to persuade Hariri not to resign, but we hit [a dead end] due to his insistence” to resign, he said.
Berri also called for stopping “everything that might ignite tensions and push [people in the] streets to face off against each other.”
“The situation is delicate and sensitive, and what happened should be addressed wisely. … Wisdom and communication among the Lebanese components is what is required to solve issues,” he added.