Lebanon braced for violence on Thursday as a nationwide labour strike to protest rising prices was underway, with roads in several areas closed and passengers prevented from reaching the airport.
The army was out in full force as demonstrators blocked roads in several regions, including the eastern Bekaa, where protesters burned tyres and a nine-year-old boy was injured by a stray bullet.
In the capital, Beirut, dozens of transport workers prevented taxis from reaching the airport, forcing passengers to continue their route on foot.
In the southern coastal city of Tyre, some 140 bus and taxi drivers marched in the streets chanting "we are hungry, we want to eat."
The head of the General Confederation of Workers of Lebanon, Ghassan Ghosn, said the strike was aimed at forcing the government to raise the minimum wage and address inflation. He added that the union had called protesters to avoid violence and clashes.
The CGTL is calling for the minimum monthly wage to be tripled from 300,000 Lebanese pounds ($200, Dh730) to 900,000 pounds ($600, Dh2,190).
Consumer prices rose 3.7 per cent in the 10 months to October, led by an 8 per cent hike in food prices, according to the private Institute of Research and Consulting.
The strike follows similar protests in recent weeks that have prompted fears of all out civil strife with the country embroiled in its worst political crisis since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
Lebanon has been without a president since Emile Lahoud stepped down at the end of his term on November 23, with no elected successor because of a standoff between the Western-backed majority and the Hezbollah-led opposition. (AFP)
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