Violent clashes erupted late on Monday between riot police and followers of Hezbollah and the Amal movement in central Beirut after a social media posting critical of the Shiite community and leadership emerged.
The video shows a man insulting the Shiite community in Lebanon, Shia Imams and leaders of Hezbollah and the Amal movement.
Local media identified him as Samer Sidawi – a Sunni man from the northern port city of Tripoli who claims to be living outside Lebanon.
Protesters took to the streets angered by the video and clashed with riot police, who used tear gas water cannons to disperse the demonstrators.
Streets in downtown Beirut looked like a battlefield covered with stones and metal objects.
Smoke from tear gas also covered the area.
Lebanese streets have been tense since anti-government protesters, who represent people from various Lebanese religious groups, took to the streets on Oct. 17 accusing the ruling elite of mismanagement and corruption.
“No one is allowed to assault leaders like Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah and Nabih Berri,” chanted the protesters referring to the Hezbollah and Amal leaders.
Local media also showed demonstrators chanting “Shiia Shiia.”
Both Hezbollah and the Amal movement have called on their followers to leave the streets “immediately”.
A Shiite clergyman used a mosque loudspeaker from the nearby Shiite neighbourhood Khandak al Ghameek to call on the protesters to leave the streets.
Riot police arrested at least three Shiite protesters after three cars in the area were set on fire.
Shiite and Sunni clergymen described the video as a means of inciting strife between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in the country and called for calm.
An aid of Sunni-Muslim grand Mufti, Sheikh Hassan Mereb, told local media that the video does not represent the Sunni community in Lebanon.
Local media reported that Sidawi’s family in Tripoli denounced the video and said he does not represent anyone in Lebanon.
The incident came hours after anti-government protesters took to the streets and decried Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s decision to postpone parliamentary consultations for the naming of a new prime minister at the request of Saad Hariri, the only candidate for the post.
The binding consultations are now delayed until Thursday to allow for more consultations on the issue of forming the government.
Anti-government demonstrators gathered earlier Monday evening to reject Hariri’s nomination, demanding that an “independent” be nominated instead.
Protesters have called for a government of technocrats, rather than politicians from the ruling class, to help revive the country’s battered economy.
Lebanon has been gripped by street protests since mid-October and the economic and political turmoil there has generated Lebanon’s worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
The protests prompted Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign on Oct. 29.
According to a source close to Hariri, “the coming 72 hours will be crucial” – the former premier is still insisting on forming a government of experts.
The source said that if Hariri cannot secure his demand he is likely to say “look for another person to head the government.”
Hariri was expected to be named as premier during the consultations, which were scheduled for Monday at the presidential palace.
Hariri’s request for postponement came after two main Christian parliamentary blocs decided not to back him, which would have affected the number of votes he was expected to receive.
President Aoun was due to hold talks with various parliamentary blocs following two nights of clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police.
According to the Lebanese constitution, the president has to consult with parliamentary blocs before he tasks a premier with forming a new government.
The president must be a Christian Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliamentary speaker a Shiite Muslim.
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