The leader of Hizbollah on Friday warned Lebanon that nationwide protests calling for the overthrow of the government could lead to chaos and civil war.
Hassan Nasrallah praised protesters for achieving “unprecedented” economic reforms but also suggested foreign intervention had a role in the demonstrations.
Over a quarter of Lebanon’s population are reported to have taken to the streets in anti-corruption protests over the past week. Hizbollah supporters have in recent days organised counter-attacks on the protests, which have so far remained largely free of sectarian division.
The powerful Shiite group, which is backed regionally by Iran, is in coalition with the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Speaking to the nation for the first time on day nine of the mass protests, Nasrallah warned that he had “intelligence” of foreign “conspiracies” to drag Lebanon into civil war.
The leader claimed that the protests had started spontaneously, but were now being funded and organised by local and foreign actors who were exploiting the naivety of protestors.
His speech echoed those given earlier this week by Mr Hariri and Michel Aoun, the country's president.
On the streets, protesters appeared unmoved. “All of them means all of them” they chanted, in reference to the demand for the country's entire cabinet to be replaced.
For the second day, security forces had to create human walls between the protestors and Hizbollah supporters in attempts to stop scuffles.
“We are not going to stop our protests until we get what we want. We have been suffocated in these conditions for years. They have to go. All of them means all of them,” said Hieba, a 42-year-old restaurant owner.