Oct. 29 (UPI) — Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri abruptly announced his resignation Tuesday after almost two weeks of widespread protests that have crippled services throughout the Middle Eastern nation.
Hariri said his departure is a response to protesters’ demands and a show of his commitment to national peace. His announcement came on the 13th day of protests, which began after Hariri’s government announced a tax on calls made over the mobile application WhatsApp.
“I have reached a dead-end,” Hariri said Tuesday in a nationally televised address. “And we need a big shock to counter this crisis.”
Hariri said he would go to the presidential palace and personally deliver his resignation to Lebanese President Michel Aoun.
Demonstrators have grown frustrated with what they view as government corruption and an ongoing economic crisis. For the last two weeks, they’ve set up makeshift checkpoints to disrupt traffic nationwide. Banks and schools have been closed for 10 days so far.
Hariri supporters said his resignation could empower his political enemies, which include Aoun and foreign minister Gebran Bassil, who is also his son in-law. Hariri is also opposed by the militant group Hezbollah — which, as of February, is part Lebanon’s government.
Hezbollah fighters have clashed with the protesters, setting fire to tents and attacking activists. The Lebanese Army has been called upon to stop the growing violence.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah criticized activists as foreign-backed insurgents and advised the group’s supporters not to participate in the movement. He said the fighting could lead to civil war, as it has in nearby nations like Syria and Yemen.