The Council of Ministers appointed a new Army chief of staff and approved the 2024 budget on Thursday in a session that was delayed for three hours due to protests by retired military personnel attempting to block the entrances to the Grand Serail.

The Cabinet appointed General Hassan Audi as Chief of Staff of the Army after he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. Following the December 15 extension of the mandate of Army Commander-in-Chief General Joseph Aoun, the position of Chief of Staff, reserved for the Druze denomination, remained vacant. So far, the seats for two members of the military council, Shiite and Orthodox, are still vacant.

The Cabinet also approved the 2024 budget, noting that it will be implemented immediately after being published in the Official Gazette.

The Cabinet meeting was held despite a demonstration by retired military personnel in Riad al-Solh Square. They attempted to block the entrances to the Grand Serail, demanding to speed up the processing of their case, namely the readjustment of their retirement pensions.

In this respect, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati declared that an exceptional session would be held on Saturday to “complete the study of the dossier of retired military personnel and public sector civil servants.”

While acknowledging the social and economic challenges that retirees are facing, Mikati highlighted the need to “stay within budget constraints.”

Hundreds of retired army personnel took to the streets to block the session at all costs. The failure of the Council of Ministers to act on their demands angered the demonstrators, who managed to enter the area surrounding Parliament and head towards the Grand Serail, attempting to gain entry. The police then fired tear gas canisters to keep them away from the building.

The retired troops affirmed that they “will not give up their rights” and that they are strengthening their movement, “which aims above all to improve their living conditions, especially considering the sacrifices they have offered to the nation.”

The retired military personnel also met with MP Hadi Abou al-Hosn from the Democratic Gathering bloc, who is proposing a draft law aimed at generating essential income to enhance Treasury revenues. This would enable funding for the salary scale of public sector employees as well as pensions for retirees.