Deadly Beirut clashes fuel fears of security collapse

Deadly Beirut clashes fuel fears of security collapse

BEIRUT, Lebanon, October 14 (NWN) — The deadly clashes on Thursday during protests organized by Hezbollah and its Shia Amal movement ally to demand the removal of the chief justice probing last year’s Beirut port blasts are a painful reminder of the country’s 1975-90 civil war.

The clashes further heightened fears of a security collapse in Lebanon.

Six people were killed and some 30 were injured in a shootout in the Tayouna area when Hezbollah and pro-Amal were marching towards the Judicial Palace in protest of Judge Tarek Bitter, the second judge leading the port blast investigation. Went.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was highly critical of Bitter, accusing him of being biased, politicized, and selective in calling politicians, mostly allied with Hezbollah, for questioning. Nasrallah asks Bitter to convert, reasoning that he will never reach the truth.

Supported by the families of port blast victims, Bitter stood firm. On Monday, he issued an arrest warrant for Ali Hassan Khalil, an MP and former minister close to House Speaker Nabih Beri.

Khaleel and two other former ministers filed complaints against Betar, which led to the suspension of the investigation for the time being.

four-hour clash

At first it was not clear what led to Thursday’s clash or who opened fire. Masked men were seen firing machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, while snipers were shooting from rooftops and buildings.

The conflict continued for nearly four hours along the front line of a former civil war, which separated the Christian neighborhood of Ain al-Rummaneh, a strong base of the Christian Lebanese Forces Party, and the nearby Shia area of ​​Chiyah, Which is controlled by Hezbollah and Amal.

Hezbollah and Amal issued a joint statement accusing “armed groups” of Lebanese forces led by Samir Gegea of ​​firing at protesters.

LF Parliamentary Bloc secretary Fadi Karam rejected Hezbollah-Amal’s allegations and blamed clashes on Hezbollah supporters, who instead of going to the Judicial Palace entered “a safe area” in Ein al-Rummaneh and “cars and properties”. started breaking down”.

“why they [Hezbollah] were armed, and why did they come to the area? The residents were surprised and started protecting themselves and their properties, be they Leftists or others,” Karam told NWN.

Dozens of men were seen chanting “Shia Shia” and destroying cars and shops in videos circulated online. It was not clear who the snipers were firing from nearby buildings.

Karam rejected the notion that the conflicts would lead to another civil war. But he added: “Hezbollah needs to realize that it cannot exert its control, cannot doubt and cannot question”. [port explosion] Check and tell the judges what they have to do… This is unacceptable.

“No one can impose on us things we don’t want … Hezbollah cannot impose its conditions and should not think that it can change the identity of Lebanon and control the country Because its control brought disasters, destroyed the economy and tore Lebanon apart.” he said.

Hezbollah, heavily armed and backed by Iran, is Lebanon’s most powerful political and military force. It was strengthened when it participated in the Syrian War with Iranian special forces and sent thousands of fighters to Iraq and Yemen to protect the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

port check

The investigation into the August 4, 2020, Beirut port explosion – which killed more than 200 people, injured 6,000 and destroyed neighborhoods – has not determined what specifically caused the explosion, or who brought 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate and HID it ignited seven years ago.

According to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, only a fifth of the original shipments unloaded in 2013 blew up at the port, reinforcing doubts about what happened to the rest.

The victims’ families are protesting the lack of accountability and urging Bitter to prosecute senior officials who knew about the shipment and took no action to protect the population. They also insist on knowing who was behind the ammonium nitrate shipment.

Hezbollah’s growing suspicion about the investigation was compounded by fears of attempts to “use and manipulate the investigation”, as did international investigations that indicted a Hezbollah member in the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, According to a political source, a pro-Iranian group that spoke to NWN on condition of anonymity.

On February 14, 2005, Hariri was killed in a massive explosion targeting his convoy in Beirut.

“The port investigation, the upcoming general election and the maritime border dispute with Israel are all pressure tools”, Amin Kammorih, a journalist and an independent political analyst, told NWN.

Kammorih said the recent Iraqi general election, in which pro-Iranian Shia candidates were the biggest losers, add to Hezbollah tensions.

Could the same thing happen to Hezbollah when parliamentary elections are held next spring?

“There will be a lot of pressure… Weakening Hezbollah is the goal of the upcoming general elections,” Kammorih said. “We all know that Hezbollah and Amal will not accept the outcome of the port investigation.. If they allow the investigation to continue, they don’t know where it will end.”

However, he warned that the worst thing for Hezbollah would be to be dragged into an internal war. “It will be the end for the group.”

Kammorih warned that the country had entered a new phase: “After a political and economic collapse, we have now begun the worst – a security collapse.”

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