Sniper Fire Rocks Beirut, Clashes Involving Hezbollah Leave 6 Dead In Shocking Scenes Amid Fears Of New Civil War
Major armed clashes erupted in the middle of Beirut on Thursday amid large-scale protests related to the ongoing Beirut port blast investigation. At least six Lebanese were reported killed, along with 30 others wounded in clashes between rival factions reportedly lasting up to four hours.
Shocking footage outside the Beirut Palace of Justice and surrounding central neighborhoods included crowds dodging sniper fire from above, and gunmen gathered in “fronts” shooting into ‘enemy’ positions across streets, in scenes reminiscent of the Lebanese Civil War that gripped the country from 1975 to 1990.
The violence involved Shia groups Hezbollah and Amal, clashing with the “LF” (or Lebanese Forces), which is a Christian political party staunchly opposed to Iran-bakced Hezbollah. According to regional reporting, a Hezbollah-Amal statement in the aftermath blamed the LF for the deadly mayhem as they “fired sniper shots with the aim to kill.”
Hezbollah and Amal (both historically concentrated in Lebanon’s south) urged the national army “to intervene quickly to stop these criminals.”
Stunning video shows sniper fire from an unknown location in a building ring out over panicked crowds in broad daylight. However, LF leader Samir Geagea rejected the charge, blaming the violence instead on the “widespread proliferation of arms” in reference to Hezbollah and its well-known huge arsenal of weapons under its command.
LIVE on AlJazeera @AJArabic
Amal or Hezbollah fighter gets shot while trying to fire his RPG
6 killed, 60 wounded as shots were fired during a protest by Hezbollah supporters against Tarek Bitar, the judge investigating the Beirut Port blast, in front of the Palais de Justice pic.twitter.com/wWK8HynuIs
— Saad Abedine 🤬😷🤟🏼 (@SaadAbedine) October 14, 2021
Sniper fire rang out over crowds of thousands who were calling for the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar gathered in front of the Justice building.
According to the Beirut-based independent outlet The Cradle, the protest “was organized to demand the removal of US-backed Judge Tariq Bitar, who was set to accuse Hezbollah and its allies of playing a role in the Beirut Port explosion.”
Loud gunfire heard fired at Hezbollah and Amal protesters today, who went out to demand the end of the politicization of the Beirut blast investigation pic.twitter.com/R7QlncoL4C
— Sarah Dadouch | سارة دعدوش (@SarahDadouch) October 14, 2021
Into the evening hours, the national army is said to be in control of the streets as each side continues to trade blame.
Messages circulated on the internet of local schools urgently telling parents and children to stay home amid fears the violence would spread to other parts of the city.
This is in Beirut folks. pic.twitter.com/nmiKSsWSdC
— Georges Haddad (@Georges__Haddad) October 14, 2021
Indeed the Lebanese capital is still on edge, also amid recent lengthy power outages, food and fuel shortages, and runaway inflation and a collapsed economy – all of which have made daily life miserable.
Al Jazeera reports that at least nine people have been arrested, including one Syrian – though it’s clear from recent footage to emerge that literally hundreds were seen rushing to front lines as automatic gunfire rang out.
Concerns that fighting may spread to neighboring areas with reports of gunmen trying to get into #AinelRummameh – This was one part of the historic green line that split #beirut during #Lebanon ‘s long civil war #لبنان #لبنان_ينهار #بيروت pic.twitter.com/x1QVegUwga
— Maha Yahya (@mahamyahya) October 14, 2021
Ironically, the start of the fighting occurred precisely where the historic 15-year long civil war began, sparking fears that the country could be on the brink of another one:
Local reports and video footage indicated that the unarmed demonstrators in Tayouneh neighborhood were ambushed by gunmen, whom the protesters believe to be from the Lebanese Forces (LF) party positioned on the rooftops of buildings in the adjacent Ein el-Remmaneh neighborhood.
Ein el-Remmaneh – bordering the LF-held Furn el-Shebbak and Tayouneh, which has supporters from both the LF and Amal – is an LF stronghold where the 15-year-long Lebanese Civil War was sparked in 1975 in an attack on a bus that killed 22 Palestinians.
Indeed a statement from Prime Minister Najib Miqati urged immediate calm and warned the country could be “dragged into civil strife” if the rival factions involved don’t immediately cease.
— Larissa Aoun (@LarissaAounSky) October 14, 2021
The New York Times has dubbed Thursday’s events “the worst sectarian strife in years.”
Footage of said RPG (from about an hour ago) pic.twitter.com/BGAfFlLupN
— Will Christou (@will_christou) October 14, 2021
Before night fell the national army was seen firing into buildings that housed militants…
Lebanese soldiers are firing at a building in Beirut where militants are believed to have hidden after the attack against protesters, a Sputnik correspondent reports pic.twitter.com/up5A03ch2D
— Sputnik Insight (@Sputnik_Insight) October 14, 2021
Fighters were seen patrolling the streets with RPGs, with footage confirming RPG fire into buildings. Al Jazeera correspondents suggested that a range of weaponry had been deployed at the height of the heavy urban clashes through the day.
Thu, 10/14/2021 – 13:45