Guardian Unlimited, January 23, 2007 - Thousands of demonstrators brought much of
Clustering in small groups around roadblocks of burning tyres, supporters of the opposition Hizbullah party intensified protests that have been going on for nearly two months. (Picture top - Smoke from burning tyres and debris hangs over Beirut as thousands of demonstrators enforcing a general strike aimed at toppling the government brought much of Lebanon to a standstill. Photograph: Hussein Malla/AP)
Television pictures showed clouds of thick black smoke hanging over
Police said 14 people had sustained gunshot wounds in isolated disturbances between opposition supporters and pro-government activists in central and northern
Click to watch video from BBC. Police and troops across the country were working to open roads, sometimes negotiating with protesters, but they refrained from using force. In some instances, the military separated the two opposing sides as they exchanged insults and stones.
Blazing roadblocks cut off the road to
The Hizbullah leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, called the strike as part of opposition attempts to bring down the pro-western government of the prime minister, Fouad Siniora, install a new administration and hold early parliamentary elections.
Witnesses said demonstrators had shut down much of downtown and suburban
Government officials described the disturbances as an attempted coup.
"It is one of the chapters of the putsch," the telecommunications minister, Marwan Hamadeh, told al-Arabiya television. "This will fail, as in the past, and the legitimate government of
"The opposition is attempting a coup by force ... This is not a strike," said the youth and sports minister, Ahmed Fatfat. "This is military action, a true aggression, and I'm afraid this could develop into clashes between citizens."
The strike came two days before Mr Siniora and his economic team were due to seek financial aid for
The opposition has also said the grants and loans, which local analysts set at around $5bn (£2.5bn), would only increase the national debt and further weaken the economy, already hit hard by last year's war between Hizbullah guerrillas and Israel.
Opposition supporters have been camped out in front of the prime minister's office in