On Thursday, Lebanon’s public transportation drivers shut down roads across the country, crippling traffic in protest of currency manipulation that has left them out of pocket.

“We can barely afford hospitalization or medicine,” a driver in central Beirut stated. We’re imploring healthcare associations to protect our rights, which the government is obliged to protect.”
Banks were closed on Thursday due to the inability of staff to come to work, while schools and institutions were also closed.
The price of a 20-liter canister of gasoline has grown tenfold in less than a year after subsidies were removed, to about 400,000 Lebanese pounds ($264), but the minimum monthly pay of 675,000 pounds has remained steady.

“Our complaint with the state is the rise in the exchange rate,” said Fadi Abou Shakra, a spokesman of Lebanon’s fuel wholesalers who took part in the protests. Officials did nothing to stop unlawful platforms from rigging the currency exchange rate. It is not our pastime to obstruct traffic and cause problems. Today is an angry day, and we’ll see what the rest of the week brings.”

After clashes erupted between demonstrators and members of the public attempting to utilize the blocked roadways, soldiers and other security forces were dispatched to maintain order.
Bechara Al-Asmar, the head of the General Labor Union, backed the demonstrators, calling the action “a scream for officials to perform their responsibilities and duties toward the people.”
The protestors’ demands centered on retaining bread, fuel, and other essential necessities subsidies, he said, adding that he was dismayed by the limited number of individuals who took part in the demonstration.

Several public transportation drivers claimed they were opposed to the demonstration and would not participate, despite the fact that they were not linked with the groups who organized it.
“Today is focused against the government, which has not fulfilled its pledges to promote the land transport sector and end infractions,” said Bassam Tlais, president of the Land Transport Union. We are unconcerned with politics or the reasons for the Cabinet’s inability to meet.”

The protests on Thursday were linked to a Cabinet impasse caused by ministers from Hezbollah and the Amal Movement boycotting meetings, according to political experts. Unionists loyal to one of the two parties control the trade unions.
Meanwhile, around daybreak on Thursday, a massive explosion shook the Nabatiyeh region.

“A fire broke out in a private energy generator,” the National News Agency of Lebanon reported. The flames immediately spread to a cafe’s diesel tank near Wadi Houmine. The fire spread to nearby regions, causing mines, cluster bombs, and old unexploded ordnance from the Israeli incursion in July 2006 to detonate.”

Fires broke out in the adjacent woodlands, according to residents in Houmine, Roumine, and Deir Ez-Zahrani. Others claimed that Hezbollah militants raced to the explosion site and blocked off the area, preventing journalists from getting too close.


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