A gunfight broke out between protesters and security forces on Thursday in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, with at least six people killed.
The lebanon news is a blog that provides live updates from the Middle East. In this article, it discusses the gunfire in Beirut after protests.
On Thursday, fighters from the Shiite Hezbollah and Amal organizations clashed in Tayouneh, a southern Beirut neighborhood. Credit… Getty Images/Anwar Amro/Agence France-Presse
On Thursday, armed battles between sectarian militias transformed Beirut neighborhoods into a war zone, killing six people and increasing concerns that fresh bloodshed could fill the vacuum left by the Lebanese state’s near-collapse.
Rival gunmen crouched behind dumpsters, shouting in favor of their leaders, and fired automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at their opponents. Residents hid in their houses, while instructors pushed youngsters into school corridors and basements to keep them safe from the gunfire.
The clashes marked a new low in the tiny Mediterranean country’s slide into a quagmire of intertwined political and economic problems.
Since the autumn of 2019, the country’s currency has depreciated, wreaking havoc on the economy and plunging Lebanese from the middle class into poverty. Rather of seeking answers, the country’s political elite has devolved into more acrimonious rivalry. Last year, a massive explosion in Beirut’s port revealed the consequences of what many Lebanese view as decades of bad government and corruption.
A demonstration organized by two Shiite Muslim organizations — Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militant group that the US deems a terrorist organization, and the Amal Movement — erupted in violence on Thursday. The demonstrators demanded that the judge in charge of examining the Beirut explosion and identifying who was to blame be removed.
Gunshots rang out as the demonstrators assembled, presumably fired by snipers in adjacent high buildings, according to witnesses and Lebanese authorities, and protesters fled to side streets, retrieving weapons and preparing to fire back.
The ensuing battles occurred in an area spanning the border between two districts, one Shiite and the other a bastion of the Lebanese Forces, a Christian political organization that hates Hezbollah vehemently.
Officials from Hezbollah accused the Lebanese Forces of firing the first shots, while Hezbollah and the Amal Movement accused unidentified forces of attempting to “lead the nation into a purposeful conflict” in a statement.
As gunshots erupted near a demonstration in Beirut on Thursday, an army soldier carried a kid as people fled. Credit… Reuters/Mohamed Azakir
At a series of tweets, Samir Geagea, the commander of the Lebanese Forces, denounced the violence, saying it was caused by “uncontrolled and ubiquitous weapons that endanger people in any time and place,” a reference to Hezbollah’s enormous arsenal.
In Lebanon, where there are 18 recognized sects, including Sunni and Shiite Muslims, different Christian denominations, and others, religious violence is especially hazardous. Conflicts between them and the militias they support shape the country’s politics and have often devolved into bloodshed, most notably during the country’s 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990.
Lebanon’s main religious groups are Sunnis, Shiites, and Christians, but Hezbollah has emerged as the country’s most powerful political and military organization, with an arsenal of over 100,000 missiles aimed at Israel and thousands of militants sent to Yemen, Syria, and Iraq.
The Lebanese army was sent to quiet the streets after approximately four hours of fighting, and the confrontations seemed to decrease, but people stayed in their houses seeking shelter from the carnage. A total of 30 individuals were injured, in addition to those who were murdered.
As the army encouraged people to flee the area, Prime Minister Najib Mikati appealed for calm, saying that troops would kill anybody who opened fire.
During a rally in Beirut on Thursday, supporters of the Shiite Hezbollah and Amal factions chanted slogans against Judge Tarek Bitar, who is probing last year’s deadly harbor explosion. Credit… Associated Press/Hussein Malla
It was unclear where the initial bullets came from or who was shooting when they rang out as protestors gathered in downtown Beirut on Thursday morning. However, tensions surrounding an inquiry into the August 2020 port explosion had been building for weeks before the streets plunged into mayhem.
The explosion killed about 200 people and injured hundreds more, destroying or damaging large sections of the city.
The explosion was triggered by the spontaneous combustion of the remaining 2,750 tons of dangerous chemicals that had been discharged into the harbor years earlier. Many Lebanese viewed the explosion, as well as prominent politicians’ attempts to stymie the inquiry into its origins, as a striking illustration of the country’s profound dysfunction.
Hassan Diab, the former Prime Minister, and his cabinet resigned, leaving the nation without a functional government for a year. Najib Mikati, a wealthy telecommunications magnate, was elected Prime Minister in September.
Tensions over the port inquiry intensified even as a new administration took form.
The investigation was halted last week when two former ministers accused of wrongdoing filed a fresh legal case against the judge overseeing the probe.
Families of the dead have spoken out against the decision, with opponents claiming that the country’s political leadership is attempting to avoid responsibility for the country’s biggest explosion in its tumultuous history.
Hezbollah has been more outspoken in its condemnation of Judge Tarek Bitar.
A warrant for Ali Hussein Khalil, a senior Shiite member of Parliament and close advisor to the Amal party’s leader, was issued by the court on Monday. Mr. Khalil was charged with severe charges in the warrant.
“The nature of the crime includes murdering, injuring, arson, and vandalism connected to probable purpose,” the paper said.
Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, recently leveled some of his harshest criticisms at the judge, accusing him of “politically targeting” officials in his probe.
When bullets broke out on Thursday, the group’s supporters joined the demonstration to demand Judge Bitar’s resignation. According to witnesses, snipers were firing at the protesters.
That was the catalyst for some of the most violent sectarian confrontations in recent memory. After four hours of fire fights, the weapons had gone quiet by late afternoon, but the streets remained tense as people cowered in their houses.
After violence erupted near the Justice Palace in Beirut on Thursday, medics evacuated people. Credit… Getty Images/Marwan Tahtah
The continuous bombardment of gunfire outside caused kids to hide beneath their desks and huddle in corridors, trembling. The sound of a sniper rifle was followed by a cacophony of handguns, automatic rifles, and rocket-propelled grenades.
As terrified people — many of whom had gone through years of civil conflict and are now trying to obtain basic needs like as food and gasoline — tried to hide, ambulances screamed.
Leena Haddad and her daughter gathered together in their house, trying to avoid the violence.
As the shooting died down on Thursday evening, she recalled, “We remained in the bathroom for hours, the safest section of the home.”
Her daughter had attempted to get a peek outdoors while the battle raged, unsure whether it was safe to move.
Ms. Haddad said, “I attempted to push her away from the window because she wanted to snap pictures.” “There was a lot of gunfire,” she said, and all she saw were guys in black fleeing through the streets.
Lebanon is through a confluence of economic, political, and social problems, and the view from her window brought back dreadful memories of the country’s civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 1990.
“In the past, I lived through a civil war,” she said. “I understand what civil war entails.”
More pictures like those seen on the TVs of individuals stranded in their houses on Thursday are likely to be shown. As he drew his last breath, a bullet jolted a guy lying on the street.
It implies that individuals were shot while hiding in their houses, as at least one of the victims on Thursday was.
It implies black smoke plumes, broken windows, and gunshots flying through the air. It also implies death. According to Lebanese authorities, many of those murdered on Thursday were shot in the head.
Hassan Diya, 64, is pessimistic about the future.
“This nation will never be repaired,” he remarked, surveying the broken glass that littered his store when the violent outburst subsided. “The poor Lebanese are paying the price” as groups vie for power, he added.
He claimed he won’t be able to make repairs since he couldn’t withdraw money from his bank on Thursday because it had stopped withdrawals. On Thursday, there were tales of bank runs as individuals frantically sought cash.
The Lebanese pound has lost 90% of its value since the autumn of 2019, and inflation reached 84.9 percent last year. According to official data, the price of numerous consumer items has almost tripled in the preceding two years as of June.
“Everything is set up for civil war,” Mr. Diya added.
On Thursday, supporters of the Lebanese Shiite organizations Hezbollah and Amal, as well as members of the Christian Marada movement, protested Judge Tarek Bitar. Credit… Reuters/Mohamed Azakir
Judge Tarek Bitar is the second judge in charge of the inquiry into the cause of the explosion at Beirut’s port in August 2020 and the prosecution of those involved.
He was anticipated to confront the same legal and public relations difficulties as his predecessor: strong politicians and other officials in Lebanon who have long functioned with impunity, shielded by rules they say insulate them from punishment.
Efforts to examine the circumstances surrounding the explosion have progressed slowly, despite politicians’ usual vehement opposition, leaving many Lebanese fearful that the strong will once again escape responsibility.
Judge Bitar has summoned a number of prominent politicians and security personnel for interrogation as suspects since his appointment in July. Many people have declined to appear in court or filed lawsuits against him, accusing him of politicizing the inquiry.
He set several dates to interview Hassan Diab, the former prime minister, who has failed to appear and went to the United States on what Mr. Diab said was a pre-planned vacation before his scheduled meeting with the court.
Judge Bitar has also summoned or indicted Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s General Security and the country’s most powerful security official; senior army officers; and a number of lawmakers and former ministers, including Ali Hassan Khalil, the former finance minister; Ghazi Zaiter, the former transportation minister; and Nouhad Machnouk, the former interior minister.
According to the state-run National News Agency at the time, Judge Bitar intended to interrogate the three former ministers on suspicion of murder with probable intent and criminal negligence.
He also requested that the bar associations in Beirut and Tripoli, the country’s two biggest cities, remove the immunity granted to Mr. Khalil, Mr. Zaiter, and Youssef Finianos, a former transportation minister.
Judicial experts argued that what was at risk was a political system that has traditionally shielded powerful officials from legal scrutiny.
“There have been many accusations of corruption and human rights abuses against high-ranking officials in Lebanon, but there has been a culture of impunity that has enabled them to avoid responsibility for their acts,” said Aya Majzoub, a Human Rights Watch researcher in Lebanon.
After attempting to prosecute Mr. Diab and three previous ministers — Mr. Khalil, Mr. Zaiter, and Mr. Finianos — with criminal negligence, Judge Bitar’s predecessor, Judge Fadi Sawan, came under fire from strong politicians and media groups sympathetic to them, accusing him of violating Lebanese law.
On the request of Mr. Khalil and Mr. Zaiter, a Lebanese court dismissed him, based in part on the allegation that Judge Sawan lacked impartiality since his house had been destroyed in the explosion.
In May, a queue of cars formed at a petrol station in Beirut. Credit… The New York Times’ Diego Ibarra Sanchez
Lebanon, a tiny Mediterranean nation still scarred by a 15-year civil war that ended in 1990, is undergoing a financial meltdown that the World Bank says may be among the worst since the mid- 1800s.
The crisis is tightening like a vice on a people whose money has lost value while the cost of almost everything has risen dramatically.
The Lebanese pound has lost 90% of its value since autumn 2019, and annual inflation in 2020 reached 84.9 percent. According to official data, consumer goods prices had almost tripled in the preceding two years as of June.
The massive explosion in Beirut’s harbor a year ago, which killed over 200 people and destroyed a big section of the city, further contributed to the despair.
The explosion worsened the country’s long-running economic crisis, and there is no hope in sight.
Years of corruption and poor policies have left the nation severely in debt, with the central bank unable to keep the currency afloat as it has for decades due to a decrease in foreign financial flows. Now that the economy has hit rock bottom, food, gasoline, and medication are in limited supply.
All but the richest Lebanese have eliminated meat from their diets and queue for hours to fill up their vehicles, suffering through hot summer evenings due to prolonged power outages.
A graphic study by the New York Times looked at the causes of the tragedy, which killed over 200 people and was so strong that the second explosion could be felt as far as Cyprus.
Beirut protests in 2019. Because phone calls are so costly in Lebanon, many families use WhatsApp to connect. Many others saw a tax on the app as just another evidence of government-imposed inequity. Credit… The New York Times’ Diego Ibarra Sanchez
The situation in Lebanon has deteriorated as a result of three events that occurred in 2019.
To begin, the government attempted to collect funds by putting a fee on all WhatsApp calls, which many Lebanese families use due to the high cost of phone calls. The tax enraged many people, who viewed it as just another example of government-imposed inequity, and it sparked massive, often violent demonstrations.
Second, the epidemic wreaked havoc on Lebanon’s already fragile economy. Tourism, which accounted for 18% of Lebanon’s pre-epidemic GDP, was particularly severely affected.
Third, massive explosions at a port in Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, killed over 200 people and devastated many flourishing districts in August 2020. Many individuals were unable to repair their houses due to financial constraints.
For the first time since the explosion, Lebanon established a new government last month. Najib Mikati, a millionaire who has been as Prime Minister twice since 2005, is the current leader.
The French government and others have pressed the Lebanese government to implement changes, but there is no indication that it will. The Biden administration has decided not to get heavily engaged since it is focused on other areas of the globe.
Many Lebanese households depend on money sent from family members residing in other countries to make ends meet.
The fact that most families have relatives in other countries is the only thing keeping many individuals in Lebanon afloat.
The lebanon is a country in the Middle East. There have been at least 6 dead in gunfire after protests.
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