Beirut (Associated Press) – Armed clashes broke out in Beirut on Thursday, protesting the chief judge’s investigation into the massive bombings in the city’s port last year, as the tensions in the domestic investigation have ended.
Gunshots reverberated in the capital, an ambulance rushed to the scene, sirens sounded, and casualties were reported.
The powerful Hezbollah organization and its allies demanded a protest outside the Palace of Justice. They demanded the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar.
It is unclear what triggered the gunfire, but tensions are high on the front lines of the former civil war between Muslim Shia and Christian areas. An Associated Press reporter saw a man fire a pistol during the protest. Another witness said he saw people shooting in the direction of the protesters from the balcony of the building.
At least two men were injured and bleeding. After the shooting, the army deployed extensively in the area.
On August 4, 2020, hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate improperly stored in a port warehouse exploded, killing at least 215 people, injuring thousands and destroying parts of nearby communities. This is one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history and has further destroyed a country already plagued by political differences and unprecedented economic and financial crises.
Bitar, the second judge who led the complex investigation, was strongly opposed by Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah organization and its allies, who accused him of singling out politicians for questioning, most of whom allied with Hezbollah.
So far, no official of Hezbollah has been charged in the 14-month investigation.
Even before Lebanon began to respond to an unprecedented economic crisis, armed conflict could derail the country’s month-long government.
After Hezbollah asked the government to take urgent action against judges, Wednesday’s cabinet meeting was cancelled. A minister allied with Hezbollah said that if Judge Tarek Bitar is not removed, he and other cabinet members will go on strike.