Heavy gunfire echoed through the streets of Beirut on Thursday after a morning of protests descended into the worst sectarian violence in years, leaving at least five dead and 30 wounded, the Lebanese authorities said.
The clashes erupted amid a protest led by Shiite political parties, including Hezbollah, a militant group backed by Iran, to push for the removal of the judge investigating the August 2020 Beirut Port explosion. The judge, Tarek Bitar, has indicted a range of officials, including members and allies of the Shiite parties, who have accused him of political targeting.
The violence — mostly between Shiites and Christians — laid bare deep sectarian tensions that have been exacerbated by an acute economic crisis and the near collapse of the state.
Tensions have been running high in Beirut over an investigation into the port blast, which killed more than 200 people and did extensive damage to the capital. Lebanon is also in the throes of a financial collapse that the World Bank has said could rank among the world’s worst since the mid-1800s.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati called for calm as the army urged civilians to leave the area, warning that soldiers would shoot anyone who opened fire.
Photos by Anwar Amro/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images, Hussein Malla/@apnews, Hassan Ammar/@apnews, Mohamed Azakir/Reuters and Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Source, NY Times