Thousands of protesters clashed with security forces in Lebanon on Sunday on the eve of parliamentary sitting that is expected to select caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri to form a new government.
Security forces fired tear-gas and threw stones at protesters who had gathered outside Beirut’s Nejmeh Square, where parliament is located, and which has been closed off to the public since the outbreak of nationwide protests 60 days ago.
Aya Majzoub, Lebanon Researcher for Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter than at least four protesters had been injured by rubber bullets.
For nearly two months, protesters have sought to oust a ruling class of former civil war-era militia leaders and businessmen who they accuse of bankrupting the country through corruption and mismanagement.
Facing massive street pressure, Hariri resigned on the 13th day of protests. But more than six weeks later, the main demands of the hundreds of thousands who have taken to the streets - namely, the formation of a government of independent experts and early elections - have not been met.
Instead, Hariri seems set to return, after a number of other candidates failed to garner enough support from Lebanon’s Sunni establishment.
Lebanon’s prime minister must be Sunni under the country's complex sectarian power-sharing system.
“Saad, Saad, Saad, don't dream that you’ll come back again,” protesters chanted outside parliament, before the violent clashes erupted.
Following a violent crackdown by security forces in the capital the previous night, many protesters arrived ready for confrontation, wearing helmets and gas masks. Some had sticks.
One group of several dozen arrived wearing blue helmets, and were cheered on by protesters as they walked towards the square.
“There is no peaceful anymore,” one of the men, who identified himself as Tony, told Al Jazeera. “We are peaceful now but, if they fire any teargas at us we will not be peaceful. We have the right to defend ourselves.”
A man next to him added: “Peaceful didn’t work with them - we’ve had 60 days of peaceful and look where it's gotten us."
As protesters gathered outside Nejmeh Square, some began throwing water bottles and fireworks at security forces blocking the entrance, with cheers going up form the crowd when the fireworks exploded.
“Do it again, do it again,” they chanted.
Then, security forces charged protesters and fired teargas, while many also threw stones, injuring a number of people. Security forces forced protesters through the city's cobblestone streets and onto the central Martyr’s Square, where an hours-long standoff ensued.
Parliament Police last week had attacked protesters as they passed near the speaker’s Beirut house, smashing cars and beating several, including a journalist. On Saturday night, security forces, including parliament police, cracked down on protesters gathered outside Nejmeh Square, firing teargas and beating the crowds.