Lebanon's cabinet held an emergency meeting on Tuesday in the heavily guarded Serail Palace in the capital in light of recent sweeping protests in Beirut, asking for an instant solution for the garbage disposal crises, and the resignation of the country’s feuding government.
Beirut-based garbage disposal campaign "You Stink," held two large rallies over the weekend over uncollected garbage, reflecting long-simmering anger about government incompetence and political corruption. "You Stink" has called for renewed rallies next Saturday as well.
Lebanese Ministers arrived at the Palace and began their meeting. Concrete walls were built around the building on Monday, which protesters quickly covered with colourful anti-government graffiti.
Infiltrators reportedly succeeded in dissolving among the demonstrators in Central Beirut on Sunday, where they were throwing Molotov cocktails at security forces, Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) reported.
“Participants in the protest also set the barbed wire on fire using a burning tire, after which they portioned it and began throwing pieces at the security forces,” NNA added.
General Jean Kahwaji, Lebanon's Army Commander said late on Monday that the Armed Forces would protect any peaceful demonstrations but would not tolerate "security violators or infiltrators" who sought to sow "sedition and chaos."
The "You Stink" campaign spokesperson denied any role in the violence that took place during the protest and blamed it on thugs that infiltrated the protests. The UN special coordinator for Lebanon on Monday urged "maximum restraint" by all sides.
The "You Stink" protests raged on as police forces were deployed on the ground to tackle the increasing number of protesters demanding rubbish collection and denouncing corruption which they called as "political dysfunction" in Lebanon.
The first and only fatality came on Sunday, as scores were brutally injured in clashes between anti-government protesters and Lebanese police officers. Some of the injured suffered smoke inhalation, and at least 60 were hospitalised, according to the Lebanese Red Cross.
The "You Stink" and other protest organisers withdrew their supporters from Riad al Solh Square and moved to the Martyrs’ Square after men they described as political thugs or the infiltrators began clashing with police.
The Lebanese cabinet, parliament and politicians failed to agree on a new president for more than a year while Syria's war next door has driven more than 1 million refugees into the country.
The Lebanese Amal Movement has been accused of being behind pushing infiltrators in Sunday's riots during the peaceful protest of the "You Stink" group, NNA reported. Amal Movement bureau released a statement on Monday morning denying any involvement in the incident, after accusations overflowed on social media, pointing fingers at the movement and its Shiite rival Hezbollah.
No official response has been released by Hezbollah so far.
Salam declared in a press statement on Sunday, following the Beirut protests, that if the cabinet does not make the decisions on the list he is to put in front of them in a meeting scheduled for Thursday, a collapse is probable for the country.
“I will not be part of this collapse. Let each side and political forces bear its responsibility and know the facts,” he warned.
Behind the Lebanese deadlock is the conflict of interest between the two halves comprising the political atmosphere in Beirut. The Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies including Christian politician Michel Aoun, and the Saudi-backed mainly Sunni pro-Western Future Movement are led by politician Saad al Hariri and his allies. Both parties disagree on a wide spectrum of middle eastern issues, mainly the Syrian civil war that started in 2011.