General strike and anti-government protests paralyze Beirut
Demonstrators blocked several roads in and around Beirut with burning tyres on Wednesday as part of an anti-government protest backed by Lebanon's Hizbullah-led opposition, witnesses said. The main road leading to the capital's international airport was among routes blocked by the protesters, Reuters reported. Sources also reported that the protestors tossed a hand grenade on Corniche Mazraa road, injuring three people and two soldiers.
The Syrian-backed opposition had urged supporters to back a strike by Lebanon's main labour union, which is demanding higher wages. A similar opposition-sponsored strike on Jan. 23, 2007, led to serious confrontations between the Hizbullah-led opposition and the March 14 majority that almost sparked civil unrest.
Thus, security forces were deployed ahead of a march called by union leaders for later on Wednesday. The strike and protests would force Beirut's international airport to suspend flights on Wednesday, officials said. According to them, 32 flights to and from the airport had either been delayed or cancelled. Airport staff were due to join the strike from 0600 GMT to 1200 GMT.
On Tuesday, the government accused Hizbullah of violating Lebanon's sovereignty by operating its own communications network and installing spy cameras at Beirut airport. On its part, the Shiite movement said the communications network was part of its security apparatus and had played a major role in its war with Israel in 2006.