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Unrest escalates in Lebanon as currency collapses and prospect of hunger grows

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Violence escalated Tuesday in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli as protesters angered by the collapse of the country's currency and spreading economic upheaval burned down a series of banks and countered volleys of tear gas by pelting security forces with stones.

These latest arson attacks came at the end of a large funeral for 26-year-old Fawwaz al-Samman, who died Monday from gunshot wounds, which his sister said on Facebook he had suffered during clashes with the army.

The army released a statement Tuesday expressing regret for his death, without claiming responsibility, and announced it is opening an investigation into the incident.
As mourners filled the streets of Tripoli for his funeral, they dubbed him “Martyr of the Hunger Revolution.”

Lebanon faces its most severe economic crisis in decades, and it has been worsening since September. Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets in October, ultimately forcing the prime minister and his cabinet to resign. Then, the coronavirus struck, compelling already shaky businesses to shutter their doors and putting countless people out of jobs.

When Lebanese officials set a curfew and curbed movements in mid-March in response to the pandemic, the government gave itself a break from the street unrest and protesters retreated home.

But shortly after the government announced Friday a five-phase plan to reopen the country, the protesters — overwhelmingly young and frustrated with the severe lack of job opportunities — emerged from their quarantine.

Molotov cocktails destroyed a bank branch late on Saturday in the southern city Tyre. The following two nights, more banks were attacked and set on fire across the country. Protesters shut down highways. The army retaliated with tear gas and rubber bullets.
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