According to the Lebanese Ministry of Interior, hundreds of Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its main Shiite ally Amal’s supporters are marching towards the Justice Palace in the Lebanese capital when snipers on the roof fired at the protesters, forcing the demonstrations Actors and reporters carried out cover ministers, military statements and local broadcasters.
The demonstrators called for the removal of a popular judge who led an investigation into the massive bombing in Beirut port last August, which killed more than 200 people and injured thousands.
As the armed conflict intensified on Thursday, social media footage showed that the masked gunmen were clearly connected to the protesters, launching RPGs and AK-47s from behind alleys, garbage dumps and street barriers.
The Lebanese Red Cross reported that the violence resulted in 6 deaths and more than 30 injuries. Interior Minister Bassam Moravi told reporters that the snipers and gunmen “fired at the head” while four B7 rockets were shot into the air.
Smoke can be seen billowing from inside the building that appears to have been shot. The Tayouneh community, the epicenter of the conflict, was close to the birthplace of Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war and raised concerns about further turmoil in this crisis-ridden country.
Approximately four hours after the battle began, the firing of guns and rockets appeared to be suspended. As the Lebanese Civil Defense and Red Cross teams evacuated from Tayouneh residents who were hit by shells, some traffic returned to the streets of the capital.
In a joint statement, Hezbollah and Amal accused the right-wing Christian party Lebanese Forces of being behind the sniper attacks. The Lebanese Forces denied these allegations and blamed the fighting on “widely used weapons”-alluding to Hezbollah’s weapons. For decades, the Christian Party has been the main force of Lebanese sectarian elites, but has been trying to reposition itself as an anti-establishment party. This move was rejected by Lebanon’s main opposition groups.
The violence on Thursday was widely condemned. Lebanese activists expressed their “déjà vu” feeling of the civil war on Twitter, and President Michel Aoun and the newly appointed Prime Minister Najib Mikati also said that the battle is reminiscent of that. Conflict. US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Newland visited Beirut on Thursday, calling these scenes “unacceptable.” The EU also condemned the conflict.
“It is clear that those who fired at the protesters are organized armed groups and they have been planning this attack since yesterday,” a senior Hezbollah official told CNN. “We will not fight back. They want to drag us into civil strife, we don’t want to sow civil strife.”
Protests began on Thursday against Judge Tarek Bitar, who led the investigation of the Beirut bombing case and sought to prosecute senior officials.
Hezbollah has always been a staunch opponent of Bitar. This week, the judge issued an arrest warrant against senior Amal officials and former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil.
Bitar also issued an arrest warrant against Nouhad Machnouk, an ally of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and former Minister of the Interior.
Since his appointment in February, Bitar, who also serves as the president of the Beirut Criminal Court, has been seeking senior political and security officials to be questioned in the Beirut bombing investigation. He is the second judicial investigator to lead the investigation. After two former ministers in charge of the investigation successfully moved for removal, the first judge in charge of the investigation was dismissed.
Bitar’s investigation of prominent politicians — including former ministers, heads of the country’s main intelligence agencies, and former prime minister Hassan Diab — poses the greatest legal challenge to Lebanon’s ruling elite in decades. Diab has repeatedly denied the accusations against him.
According to the Lebanese Constitution, many ruling elites, including politicians, enjoy immunity from the investigation, but more and more people are calling for the cancellation of this immunity for the purpose of this investigation. In order to maintain this immunity and avoid the possibility of prosecution, a legal battle is underway.
At the same time, Bitar has become one of the most popular civil servants in the country, praised for his advocacy of the rule of law in the confession power-sharing system, which has repeatedly protected powerful politicians and businessmen from accountability. Several legal petitions filed by officials accused of dismissing Bitar were unsuccessful.
In a televised speech on Monday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah condemned the judge and accused him of being “politicized.” Nasrallah did not provide any evidence to support his claims.
For two years, Lebanon has been in the throes of economic depression, which has led to soaring inflation, poverty and unemployment rates, as well as the rapid decline of the country’s infrastructure.