BEIRUT: More than 220 people were injured in a third night of clashes Wednesday between security forces and demonstrators protesting against coronavirus lockdown measures in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli, state-run National News Agency said.
Riot police fired tear gas and water cannons at protesters hurling stones and Molotov Cocktails at the government building in the center of the city, Lebanon's second largest, at dusk. As the evening progressed, the clashes intensified with police and army soldiers firing rubber bullets as protesters continue to use petrol bombs to try to storm the government building.
The Lebanese Red Cross reported taking 35 injured person to hospital and treating 67 on the scene. NNA reported the toll of injured people stood at 226 "civilians and security personnel.
Other protesters cut off several roads in the city with rocks and garbage bins.
At least 75 protesters and 57 security personnel had been injured in similar night clashes Monday and Tuesday.
"We are here to demand food. People are hungry," 20-year-old protester Mohammed Ezzedine told AFP. "It's time for people to take to the streets."
Tripoli was already one of Lebanon's poorest areas before the novel coronavirus pandemic piled new misery onto a chronic economic crisis.
Many of its residents have been left without an income since Lebanon imposed a full lockdown earlier this month in a bid to stem a surge in Covid-19 cases and prevent its hospitals being overwhelmed.
A round-the-clock curfew is in force nationwide and grocery shopping is restricted to home deliveries, which are often unavailable in poorer areas.
Authorities have extended the lockdown by two weeks to February 8.
Protesters tried to enter a government building, while others gathered in the city's central Al-Nour Square, the scene of mass demonstrations against the political class that began in late 2019.
Gunfire was heard near the protest site, the AFP correspondent said, while demonstrators set fire to the entrance of a police building.
"We have made the decision to continue our action, whatever the cost... because we have nothing left to lose," said a 25-year-old protester wearing a balaclava.
"We live in wretched conditions. I've knocked on every door but can't find work," he said.
After several hours of clashes, security forces deployed reinforcements to disperse the demonstrators and prevent them from storming the governorate's headquarters.