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Lebanese protests test Hezbollah’s role as Shiites’ champion

Lebanon’s protests have shown unusual, overt anger at the country’s powerhouse, Hezbollah.

The Shiite militant group has long enjoyed a reputation among its supporters as a champion of the poor and defender of the country against Israel. That’s helped it dominate Lebanon’s political scene.

But now protesters want that entire political elite out — including Hezbollah — and even some among its Shiite supporters are angry over economic woes.

FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2019 file photo, anti-government protesters and Hezbollah supporters clash during a protest in Beirut, Lebanon. Lebanon’s protests have shown unusual overt anger at the country’s powerhouse, Hezbollah. (AP PhotoHassan Ammar, File)

Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal party, have enjoyed overwhelming backing among the Shiite community since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war, making them a political powerhouse that has dominated recent governments.

But now many protesters group Hezbollah into the ruling class that they are revolting against and blame for wrecking the economy with years of corruption and mismanagement.

FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2019 file photo, supporters of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah hold his pictures and waves Hezbollah flags in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. Iranian-backed Hezbollah built a reputation among supporters in Lebanon as a champion of the poor and a defender of the country against Israel's much more powerful military. Lebanon’s protests have shown unusual overt anger at the country’s powerhouse, Hezbollah. (AP PhotoHassan Ammar, File)

FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2019 file photo, a Hezbollah supporter, right, clashes with an anti-government protester, left, during a protest in Beirut, Lebanon. Iranian-backed Hezbollah built a reputation among supporters in Lebanon as a champion of the poor and a defender of the country against Israel's much more powerful military. Lebanon’s protests have shown unusual overt anger at the country’s powerhouse, Hezbollah. (AP PhotoBilal Hussein, File)

FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2019 file photo, supporters of the Shiite Hezbollah group burn tents in the camp set up by anti-government protesters near the government palace, in Beirut, Lebanon. Lebanon’s protests have shown unusual overt anger at the country’s powerhouse, Hezbollah. (AP PhotoBilal Hussein, File)

FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2019 file photo, an anti-government protester shots slogans after he was attacked by Hezbollah supporters, in Beirut, Lebanon. Lebanon’s protests have shown unusual overt anger at the country’s powerhouse, Hezbollah. (AP PhotoHussein Malla, File)

FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2019 file photo, riot police try to stop supporters of the Shiite Hezbollah group who arrived to burn and destroy tents in the camp set up by anti-government protesters near the government palace, in Beirut, Lebanon. Lebanon’s protests have shown unusual overt anger at the country’s powerhouse, Hezbollah. (AP PhotoHussein Malla, File)