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Lebanese man shot by army in first such death as tensions spike after president tells protesters to emigrate

Abbie Cheeseman
A Lebanese demonstrator carries a portrait of Alaa Abou Fakhr, who was shot dead south of Beirut - AFP

Nationwide protests that have paralysed Lebanon for nearly one month have escalated after a protester was shot dead by the army on Tuesday. 

Tensions spiked shortly before the shooting as Michel Aoun, the president, called for protesters to leave the streets and to emigrate if they “aren't satisfied with any of the decent leaders”. 

One month after the eruption of nationwide protests, Lebanon is in deep political and economic crisis with no sign of its leaders agreeing on a new government to replace the outgoing cabinet of Saad al-Hariri, who quit as prime minister on Oct. 29.

Mr Aoun said there had been no breakthrough in talks over forming a new government, which has allowed the country to slip deeper into political and economic turmoil.

The shooting was the first death at the hands of security forces in Lebanon’s largely peaceful anti-government and anti-corruption ‘October Revolution’. 

Anti-Government protesters set fire to tires blocking a road in the town of Jal el-Dib Credit: AP Photo/Bilal Hussein

The army said that they had opened fire to disperse protesters who had created a roadblock in Khaldeh, south of Beirut, wounding one person. The soldier has been detained and is under investigation, the statement added. 

Videos quickly spread across social media of the man lying in a pool of blood with protesters rushing to his aid. He later died of his wounds in hospital. 

Outrage over the shooting, the rapidly worsening economy and Mr Aoun’s apparent dismissal of their demands saw a new wave of roadblocks, burning tires and protests sweep across the country on Wednesday with a palpable change of atmosphere.

“Thanks Aoun, you returned us to the streets,” graffiti on Beirut’s Ring Bridge read.

Banks, which were shut for half of October, closed again this week over staff security concerns. Most transfers out of the country have been blocked and, with US dollars scarce, the pegged Lebanese pound is weakening.

Some petrol stations are rationing sales to little over $10 per customer and residents are having to turn to the black market to access dollars to pay their rent.