Demonstration in Beirut: "unacceptable to return to the language of arms"
Marwan Naamani / dpa
In Lebanon, tensions surrounding the investigation into the Beirut explosion have escalated: According to Interior Minister Bassam Maulawi, six people were killed in a demonstration against the judge in the capital, Beirut, on Thursday.
Snipers fired from residential buildings at the rally organized by the Shiite movements Hezbollah and Amal, AFP journalists reported on the spot.
Shortly after the first shots, numerous armed men - many of them with Hezbollah or Amal armbands - stormed the scene and shot back with AK-47 assault rifles and bazookas.
According to the Ministry of Health, a total of 32 people were injured in the clashes.
However, the exact background to the outbreak of violence is unclear.
In particular, the identity of the Hezbollah opponents is not known.
The two Shiite movements blamed the Lebanese Forces, a Christian movement.
However, this rejected the allegations.
First arrests - President calls for calm
For several hours, gunfire and explosions could be heard not far from the Palace of Justice, in front of which hundreds of demonstrators had gathered.
The military dispatched tanks and cordoned off the Tajuneh district.
"Nine people from both sides" had been arrested, including a Syrian, the army said later.
President Michel Aoun called for calm in a televised address.
It is "unacceptable to return to the language of weapons because we have all agreed to leave this dark chapter of our history behind us," he said, referring to the civil war from 1975 to 1990. Aoun is a Christian but is considered an ally Hezbollah.
The government ordered a national day of mourning for Friday.
Hezbollah, like the Amal movement, wants to get the dismissal of Judge Tarek Bitar, who is in charge of investigating the August 2020 explosion in the port of Beirut.
The conflict has created a deep division in the government between supporters and opponents of the judge.
Bitar had to suspend his investigation for the second time in a month on Tuesday.
The occasion was a lawsuit by two ex-ministers belonging to the Amal movement, whom the judge had summoned on suspicion of negligence.
On this Thursday, however, the court of cassation ruled that Bitar can continue its investigation.
Justice "must work independently and impartially"
The UN representative for Lebanon, Joanna Wronecka, called on all those involved to "support the independence of the judiciary in the interests of the population."
The French government also warned that the judiciary must be able to "work independently and impartially."
Ned Price, spokesman for the US State Department, made a similar statement.
"The future of Lebanese democracy depends on citizens' ability to tackle difficult issues with confidence in the rule of law," he said.
On August 4, 2020, hundreds of tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrate were detonated in the port of Beirut.
The explosion razed entire districts of the Lebanese capital to the ground, killing more than 200 people.
ime / AFP