International

Lebanon on edge after sectarian unrest

Supporters of Hezbollah mourn people killed in yesterday's clashes on October 15, 2021 in Beirut, Lebanon.   | Photo Credit: MARWAN TAHTAH

Lebanon buried on Friday the victims of its deadliest sectarian unrest in years after gunfire gripped central Beirut for hours and revived the ghosts of the civil war.

Seven people died and dozens were wounded as a result of violence that erupted on Thursday following a rally by Shia protesters demanding the dismissal of the judge investigating last year’s devastating Beirut port blast.

The Shia movements Amal and Hezbollah that organised the protest in front of the Justice Palace accused the Lebanese Forces (LF), a Christian party, of engineering the chaos by aiming sniper fire at the demonstrators.

“This massacre was committed by the LF movement,” senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine said during a Beirut funeral on Friday, accusing the party of seeking to “start a civil war”.

“We will not be dragged into sectarian strife... but at the same time we cannot allow the blood of our (martyrs) to go to waste,” he added.

In Beirut’s southern suburbs, Hezbollah held burials for two of its members as well as a woman who was shot in the head by a stray bullet while she was standing on her balcony.

Hundreds of mourners chanting in support of the Iran-backed group carried caskets wrapped in the party’s yellow flag as prayers rang out from loudspeakers.

Involvement denied

The LF has denied any involvement in Thursday’s violence and said Hezbollah was “invading” off-limits neighbourhoods when the violence broke out.

A heavy army presence was visible on the streets Friday amid fears of an escalation.

On Thursday, Amal and Hezbollah militiamen filled the streets in their hundreds around Tayouneh, a notorious civil war flashpoint near the spot where the April 1975 bus attack often presented as the trigger of the conflict occurred.

As a deluge of bullets riddled residential facades, and gaggles of fighters wearing ammunition vests took over the streets and emptied their magazines haphazardly, civilians crouched in homes, terrified.

France, the U.S. and UN appealed for de-escalation but also insisted on allowing the port explosion investigation to continue unhindered.


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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 7:46:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/lebanon-on-edge-after-sectarian-unrest/article37012843.ece

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