At least five people were killed and 16 injured during protests by Iran-backed Hezbollah supporters against Judge Tarek Bitter investigating the 2020 Beirut port explosion. The blasts were also heard on Thursday as tensions over the politically charged case pushed Lebanon into another crisis. The Lebanese army is searching for the gunmen.
Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi pointed to a worrying development, saying that many of the casualties from the gunfire explosion in Beirut were killed by snipers from buildings. “This is a very alarming sign,” Mawlawi told reporters. “No one can take it.”
Joseph Bout, who directs the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut and lives near the shooting site, told VOA that gunshots and the sound of ambulance sirens made him feel like he was in scenes of the Lebanese Civil War. living again. 1975 to 1990.
“Today, it is probably a very explosive situation. The country is now probably on the verge of something very serious, if indeed what we hear so far is confirmed – that the roofs of both sides protesting in the streets. But there are snipers shooting it. It could actually be like early ’75 in Lebanon,” Bhout said.
An eyewitness told Reuters that at a nearby school, teachers instructed children to lie on the ground with their hands on their heads.
Bahut warned that the violence, which took place in the region dividing Christian and Shia Muslim neighborhoods – a former frontline of the 1975-90 civil war – could sidestep an investigation into last year’s disastrous Beirut port explosion in which 200 More people died and large parts of the capital were destroyed.
“We are in very slippery terrain and I am afraid that the issue of port checks will soon become one of the many other crises in the country. Compared to what is happening on the streets this morning, this question is very hidden and Will become secondary: skirmishes, firing, sarcasm. As the debate escalates, it will shift to what happened this morning. Who started the shooting? Who shot whom? I fear the port issue will soon be kind of submerged and Maybe put aside,” Bahut said.
Judge Bitter faced heavy pressure from former ministers affiliated with Lebanese powerbroker Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah, who accused him of ousting his political allies for questioning in the investigation. They are trying to stop his investigation into the August 4, 2020, Beirut port explosion, one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. Reports said that a large amount of ammonium nitrate – commonly used to make fertilizer or bombs – was kept there unsafely for years.
Families of port blast victims have warned against altering or intimidating Betar, “no matter what the danger,” asking officials to “keep it up”. [their] Lost the judiciary.”
Analyst Bahut says the new government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati now faces a new communal challenge to save the country from economic collapse and energy crisis.
Some political leaders say an international investigation into the blast may be needed as Hezbollah has been threatened with an investigation pointing to it.