6 die in gunfire at Beirut demonstration over blast investigation
At least six people were killed and 30 were injured in Beirut when a shooting erupted during a demonstration against the judge investigating the 2020 port bombing.
According to the Lebanese Red Cross, the demonstration gathered supporters of the Shiite pro-Iran Hezbollah movement and its allies.
The Hezbollah organisation was assembling at the Justice Palace when the shooting began, sending people fleeing for shelter.
The army was gradually restoring order by the afternoon, hours after the violence began on Thursday morning.
Tanks and troops were stationed on the streets where the worst of the mayhem occurred.
The ground was littered with shattered glass, and numerous buildings were scattered with gunshots.
The army urged residents to evacuate the area and warned its soldiers to fire at any gunmen on the streets.
Soldiers assisted in the evacuation of the elderly who were stuck in their houses.
Najib Mikati, Prime Minister, encouraged everyone to remain calm and not be drawn into civil unrest for whatever cause.
According to a witness, the shooting started from a building in the Tayouneh area, and then larger fights ensued.
As the shooting escalated, residents of Tayouneh were seen holding their children and fleeing their houses.
To protect them, several students were kept in their classrooms.
According to Hezbollah and its close partner, the Amal movement, sniper fire from building roofs resulted in the fatalities and serious injuries of its supporters.
“This onslaught by armed and organised organisations seeks to drive the country into a state of intentional conflict.”
In a statement, the Amal Movement and Hezbollah urged the Lebanese army to take responsibility and intervene immediately to stop these criminals.
“They also encourage fans and partisans to remain calm and avoid being embroiled in nasty conflict.”
In a tweet, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka voiced worry, saying it is important to use the greatest caution to ensure that calm is restored and civilians are safeguarded.
The unrest occurred immediately after a Lebanese court denied a plea by two former government ministers to dismiss Judge Tarek Bitar, who is probing the fatal Beirut port bomb.
Khalil and Zeaiter, both Muslim Shiites linked to Hezbollah and Amal, have spearheaded a furious attack against Bitar and asked that he be replaced with a “open and honest judge.”
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