Could the investigation into the explosion of the port of Beirut cause Lebanon to falter? During a demonstration against this investigation, six people lost their lives, before the city fell into scenes of civil war. Tanks, deserted streets barely disturbed by the passage of a screaming siren ambulance, inhabitants taking refuge under a desk or in a survival room… It only took a few hours to get there.
Everything starts from the investigation of judge Tareq Bitar into the explosion of the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020. The magistrate issued an arrest warrant on Tuesday against the deputy and former Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil, member of the Shiite movement Amal, ally of Hezbollah. Enough to implode a meeting of the unity government of Nagib Mikati, the ministers of Hezbollah and Amal demanding the appointment of another judge, against the advice of the rest of the cabinet.
The two Shiite movements then called for a demonstration against Judge Bitar. At the place where the relatives of the victims meet to demand that the investigation be concluded, demonstrators this time burned portraits of the judge and the American ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea, whom they accuse of manipulating the investigations.
This is where “snipers posted on the roofs of buildings” would have fired on the crowd, according to a statement from Hezbollah and Amal. The rest of the events are more confused. AFP correspondents report hundreds of demonstrators, some equipped with light or medium weapons, near the courthouse where the sound of gunfire and explosions resounded.
6 dead and 30 injured according to a provisional assessment
Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi reported six dead, plus thirty wounded according to the Lebanese Red Cross. Among the victims are a man killed by a bullet in the head, possibly by the snipers mentioned, a second shot in the chest. A 24-year-old woman was also killed by a stray bullet while at home, according to medical sources.
“The fact that Hezbollah is taking to the streets and throwing all its weight into this battle (…) could lead to major clashes and the destabilization of the entire country,” laments political analyst Karim Bitar. Prime Minister Nagib Mikati called for a return to calm and warned against attempts to drag Lebanon into a cycle of violence.