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Several protesters injured as clashes erupt in Hezbollah stronghold Nabatieh

Fresh demonstrations began from lunchtime on Wednesday [AFP]

Date of publication: 24 October, 2019

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Some demonstrators also reported coming under attack from Hezbollah and Amal supporters, forcing the army to intervene and form a human wall to separate them.
Several protesters were injured late on Wednesday after local police in the southern Lebanon city Nabatieh tried to disperse rallies by force, local media reported. 

Some demonstrators also reported coming under attack from Hezbollah and Amal supporters, forcing the army to intervene and form a human wall to separate them.

Nabatieh, a Hezbollah stronghold, has joined the wave of anti-government protests in Lebanon, demanding a revamp to the country's entire political system.

Fresh demonstrations began from lunchtime on Wednesday, with thousands again taking over main squares in Beirut and other major cities, though numbers were lower than recent days, partly impacted by the arrival of major storms.

A week of unprecedented Lebanese street protests against the political class showed few signs of abating Wednesday, with thousands again gathering across the country, braving rain and a heavy military deployment.

Protests sparked on October 17 by a proposed tax on calls made through WhatsApp and other messaging apps have morphed into a cross-sectarian street mobilisation against a political system seen as corrupt and beyond repair.

Embattled Prime Minister Saad Hariri has presented a series of reforms, including cutting ministerial salaries, but the rallies have continued, crippling the capital Beirut and other major cities.

Protesters have vowed to stay on the streets until the entire government resigns. 

On Wednesday, Hariri held meetings with security and military leaders, stressing the need to "maintain security and stability and to open roads and secure the movement of citizens," according to the state-run National News Agency. 

A senior military official confirmed they had orders to reopen main roads, with the army deploying in increased numbers in several areas, including the main road north of Beirut.

Groups of protesters again gathered to block them, sparking fears of the kinds of clashes seen during the first two days of the demonstrations.

But protesters facing the soldiers began singing the national anthem and chanting "peaceful, peaceful".

A video of one soldier seemingly in tears at the emotion of the scene was widely shared online.

"We saw the tears of soldiers standing in front of us," said Eli Sfeir, a 35-year-old demonstrator. "They are following orders and not happy about breaking up demos."

The Lebanese army is one of the most universally supported institutions in an often divided country.

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