Report: Fears in Lebanon that Hezbollah trying to hijack social protests to overthrow government

Sources say protests took a turn when Hezbollah activists became involved.

August 24, 2015 19:22
1 minute read.
Lebanon protest

Protesters start a fire during a protest against corruption and against the government's failure to resolve a crisis over rubbish disposal, near the government palace in Beirut, Lebanon August 23, 2015. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

Political sources in Lebanon claimed Monday that the "You Stink" protest movement, which originated on social media and has mobilized around the government's failure to deal with collecting trash, has been hijacked by Hezbollah in an attempt to seize power in the country.

The sources told London-based newspaper Al-Arab that "Hezbollah is using the trash crisis to topple the government of [Prime Minister] Tammam Salam and to create a power vacuum amid the Parliament's failure to choose a new president who is acceptable to everyone."

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In the Lebanese media as well, there are claims that the Shi'ite faction, Amal, which is identified in Parliament with Hezbollah, is acting to disturb the public order. The reports claim that these activists clashed with security forces that guard the prime minister's headquarters in Beirut.

The accusations have brought a lull in the protests from the side of the social activists who began the "You Stink" movement.
Lebanese reporter attacked at Beirut protests

On Sunday, one person was killed and 30 more were wounded in fierce clashes with security forces.

When the protests began, activists held up signs complaining of the trash collection crisis, but very quickly, the signs changed to, "the people want to overthrow the government," with protesters focusing on Prime Minister Tammam and his interior minister, Nouhad Machnouk.

Sources told Al Arab that "the turning point in the protests started when Hezbollah operatives joined the demonstrations."

Conflict in the Middle East, including the war in neighboring Syria, has strained Lebanon's sectarian system of government to the breaking point. The presidency reserved for a Christian has been left vacant for a year and parliamentary elections have been postponed.

The Salam cabinet, formed last year with the blessing of regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, has avoided a complete vacuum in the executive arm. It groups rival Lebanese parties including the Future movement led by Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri, Shi'ite Hezbollah, and competing Christians.

But it has struggled to take even basic decisions, including agreeing on a plan for Beirut's waste when the city's garbage dump was shut last month. Rubbish collection has resumed in some areas, but there has been no decision on a permanent solution.

Lebanese protest organizers called for a fresh demonstration against the government on Saturday.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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