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It was unclear whether the guards fired in the air or shot blanks, but no protesters appeared to be injured.

In a telephone call with Lebanon’s Future TV, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri urged his supporters to stop their attack. “We are peace supporters and against violence,” he said.

The security forces appeared woefully unprepared for the protest, and their numbers were smaller than those usually deployed for much less contentious rallies.

After about an hour of clashes, more guards arrived, along with scores of helmet-clad commandos carrying long sticks and nunchucks. They stood shoulder to shoulder across the road and blocked the protesters from advancing farther.

Unrest broke out elsewhere in Lebanon, too. Protesters blocked major roads in Beirut and in the north with rows of burning tires and briefly closed the country’s main highway to the south, the national news agency said.