Armed clashes in Beirut: “The ground is fertile for a civil war”
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Mavericks posted on the roofs, rocket launcher fire, bursts of automatic weapons: at least six people were killed and thirty others wounded in clashes in Beirut on October 14, during a rally organized by the movements Shiite Hezbollah and Amal, who aimed to demand the resignation of examining magistrate Tarek Bitar. The latter is accused of politicizing the investigation he is leading into the explosion that occurred in August 2020 in the port of Beirut. Our Observers tell of the fear that has won over the inhabitants, who see the ghosts of the civil war (1975-1990) appear.
Protesters from Hezbollah and the Shiite Amal party were heading towards the courthouse on Thursday morning when they were targeted by gunfire from buildings in the Tayouneh district, on the outskirts of Beirut. Gunmen among the protesters retaliated with automatic weapon fire, as panicked civilians scrambled the streets looking for an escape route, videos on social media show.
This video shows armed men (probably Hezbollah or Amal fighters) posted behind dumpsters responding to shots coming from buildings at the Tayouneh roundabout.
Armed men posted behind dumpsters responded to shots fired from buildings at the Tayouneh roundabout in Beirut on Thursday, October 14.
Dozens of residents rush into the streets to flee the combat zone at the Tayouneh roundabout, Thursday, October 14.
The Lebanese government has deployed the army to the neighborhood, while Prime Minister Najib Mikati has appealed for calm. But the clashes continued. Several rocket fire rang out, while residents were able to film shooters posted on the rooftops.
In this video, we see an individual posted on the roof of a building firing a shot. We have located these images: the scene takes place in the neighboring district of Ain El Remmaneh, near Old Saida road.
Video showing an individual posted on the roof of a building firing a shot, in Ain El Remmaneh, Beirut, Thursday, October 14.
The sniper was on the roof of the building delimited by a red square.
In a joint statement, Hezbollah and Amal accused groups belonging to the Lebanese Forces (FL) party, which emerged from a former Christian militia, “of deploying in the streets and on the roofs of buildings to shoot at people. protesters and kill them ”. The leader of the Lebanese Forces party, Samir Gegea, has repeatedly accused Hezbollah in recent days of wanting to “intimidate” the government in order to relinquish Judge Tarek Bitar, in charge of the investigation into the explosions in Beirut, and asserted that he would “never accept that the government give in to these pressures.”
“The ground is fertile for civil war”
Joumanah Zabaneh was at home when she heard the first shots.
My main concern was for my husband who works in the Tayouneh district and for my children whose school is close to the scene of the clashes. I left my house still in slippers to pick them up, and I found my husband in front of the school. There were a lot of parents in panic.
We got home, but the walk which normally takes ten minutes lasted half an hour. We could hear the shots, it was maybe a mile away. We hid regularly, behind a car, behind a tree. My biggest fear is taking a stray bullet, there have been so many victims of that in Lebanon. When we got home, I installed the children in the hallway, it is the safest place, there are no windows. My eldest daughter is 8 years old, she is already suffering from trauma from the explosion in the port of Beirut, she has treatment for that… And now I have to explain to her what is going on and I don’t know what to say to her.
Photos showing Schoolchildren gathered in a school hallway in Beirut and squatting in front of their desks in a school, Thursday, October 14.
On TV, we heard that the army said it was in control. But at the same time I heard the shots, how can you pretend that the army was in control.
I was born in 1976 and lived through the civil war. What I did this morning is exactly what my parents did: pick up the children from school, run and take refuge at home in fear. Recently there have been strong mobilizations of different currents, people who demonstrated, others who counter-demonstrated. When we experienced the civil war and we see that, I can tell you that we have an instinct that makes us think it can happen again.
I think we will be fixed shortly on what will happen: if the parties do not find an agreement, that means that there is a risk of falling back into civil war. And what we have seen today shows that they are ready to set off again in a civil war. We saw snipers on buildings, that’s not normal. We have seen people very tense, to defend their political current. The ground is fertile for a civil war.
While sporadic gunfire was still heard on Thursday, videos showing columns of Hezbollah fighters, armed with rocket launchers and automatic rifles, heading towards the Tayouneh neighborhood were relayed on social networks.
Images showing Hezbollah fighters heading towards the Tayouneh neighborhood in Beirut, Thursday, November 14.
“These clashes take place in an area that was the very first front of the civil war”
Jamil B, communications officer, lives in Beirut.
“I have never seen such a level of violence in Beirut. These clashes take place in an area that was the very first front of the civil war.
An attack on a bus carried out by Kataëb militants (Christian phalanges) on April 13, 1975, in the district of Aïn Remmaneh, in an avenue separating a Shiite district from a Maronite district, is at the origin of the civil war which lasted 15 years.
For 15 years, the fighters of the Lebanese Forces [milices chrétiennes] in particular, posted in the area of Ain El Remmaneh, exchanged fire with their enemies of the Shiite movement Amal, entrenched in the area of Tayouneh. And it’s pretty much the same scenes we saw today.
The neighborhood had been deserted by the civilian population and remained in the hands of armed groups for a long time.
So today’s clashes bring back painful memories of that war. The Lebanese are really scared. We are afraid that these clashes will spread to other neighborhoods, other cities, and that we will slip into a new civil war.
My family, who live in a village in the south of the country, asked me to return. I am waiting to see.
This violence comes at a time when Hezbollah and its ally Amal were trying to remove investigating magistrate Tarek Bitar, whom they accuse of politicizing the investigation into the explosions in the port of Beirut, which occurred on August 4, 2020. Tuesday, October 12, 2020. , Tarek Bitar has issued an arrest warrant against MP and former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil, member of the Amal movement. Despite a complaint filed by Ali Hassan Khalil and another deputy and ex-minister of Amal, Ghazi Zaayter, the Beirut court authorized the judge on Thursday to continue his investigation.
Caused by the storage without precaution of large quantities of ammonium nitrate, the double explosion on August 4, 2020 left at least 214 dead and more than 6,500 injured. Questioned for criminal negligence, several political figures summoned by justice, including the former Prime Minister Hassan Diab and four former ministers, have never appeared before the judge.
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