Unknown gunmen opened fire in Beirut’s capital on Thursday, killing at least three people in a demonstration against a judge overseeing an inquiry into an explosion that ripped through the city last year.
An hour after Lebanon’s top court rejected a plea to replace Judge Tarek Bitar, supporters of Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most powerful political party and militant force, as well as the allied Amal movement, took to the streets to protest.
The blatant military and political onslaught on Lebanon’s most powerful force is a hazardous escalation in a country that has been on the verge of collapse for the past year.
Bitar is the second judge to supervise the investigation, which has faced stiff opposition from a number of political parties in Lebanon, including Hezbollah, a US-designated terrorist organization.
For hours, heavy gunfire ripped through Beirut’s core, even as the army deployed and tried to identify the snipers who fired at the protestors. A local hospital confirmed to The Washington Post that at least nine people were injured.
“We don’t know,” army spokesperson Col. George Khoury said when questioned about the gunmen’s identities.
“The deployed army units will fire on any armed person who is on the streets, and toward anyone who is firing from any other place, and asks citizens to empty the streets,” read a military statement.
According to the statement, demonstrators heading toward the capital’s Adlieh region were shot at, and the army ringed the area to find those guilty.
Hezbollah’s media coordinator confirmed to The Washington Post that snipers fired at protestors from rooftops, killing three people. “No one can be charged until the complete truth becomes clear,” she stated when asked about the assailants’ allegiance or identity.
The Red Cross stated its personnel had been rushed to the location.
The investigation into the Beirut blast, which blasted through most of the city and killed more than 200 people, has sparked fury from both the families of the dead and supporters of the political heavyweights under investigation for political stalling.
The official investigation into the big Beirut explosion has been upended six months later. As Lebanon commemorates the anniversary of the Beirut bombing, it is filled with rage and sadness. The crisis in Lebanon is just getting worse.