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“Unknown” bullets ignite Beirut… and the Lebanese Forces respond to Hezbollah’s “heretics”

The leaderships of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement in Lebanon said Thursday that “groups of the Lebanese Forces Party” caused the outbreak of armed confrontations in the capital, Beirut, accusations denied by the Lebanese Forces through the “Al-Hurra” screen.

In response to the joint statement of Hezbollah and the Amal movement, the representative of the “Lebanese Forces”, Imad Wakim, said, in a telephone interview with Al-Hurra, that “Hezbollah’s accusations against the forces of shooting are just heresies.”

Six people were killed and at least thirty were wounded by gunfire during a demonstration by Hezbollah and Amal supporters against the judicial investigator in the Beirut port explosion case, but it was not immediately clear who initiated the shooting.

In recent days, Judge Tariq Bitar was subjected to a campaign of pressure led by Hezbollah, the most prominent political and military force in the country, to object to his summoning of former and security ministers for questioning in the framework of the investigations he is conducting, interspersed with calls for his removal.

Al-Tayouneh roundabout, tens of meters from the Palace of Justice, where Bitar’s office is, turned into a war zone that witnessed heavy shooting and heavy shells, despite the presence of army units and their rapid deployment in the area, which is one of the former lines of contact during the civil war (1975-1990). .

Following the outbreak of the confrontations, videos spread on social media showing dozens of people carrying machine guns and medium weapons on foot, in the southern suburbs of Beirut, which is a stronghold of Hezbollah and its ally

The shooting began suddenly during a gathering of dozens of protesters, supporters of Hezbollah and the Amal movement, in front of the Palace of Justice, before tension escalated, as gunmen responded with heavy fire from light and medium weapons, which prompted the army to deploy.

The Lebanese army announced that “while protesters headed to the Adliya area, they were exposed to bursts of fire in the Tayouneh area – Badaro, and the army rushed to cordon off the area and spread in its neighborhoods.” The army did not specify the identity of the parties that started the shooting.

The army warned that its units “will shoot at any gunman on the roads and at anyone who shoots.” He appealed to civilians to evacuate the streets. Armed spread after deaths in the demonstration by unknown fire.

In a joint statement, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement accused “armed and organized groups” of assaulting their supporters while they were on their way to participate in a rally in front of the Palace of Justice. In their statement, the two parties stated that “when they reached the Tayouneh area, they were exposed to direct fire from snipers (..) followed by intense shooting.” They considered that the attack aimed at “dragging the country into an intentional sedition.”

On the other hand, the head of the “Lebanese Forces” party, Samir Geagea, demanded, in a statement, the country’s president, Michel Aoun, the government, Najib Mikati, and the ministers of defense and interior to “conduct full and accurate investigations to determine responsibilities for what happened in the capital today.”

He denounced “the events that took place in the Beirut area, especially around the Tayouneh area, on the occasion of the demonstrations called by Hezbollah,” noting that “the main reason for these events is the uncontrolled and widespread weapons that threaten citizens at all times and places.”

As for Representative Ziad Hawat, who is close to the Lebanese Forces, he said, via his Twitter account, that “Hezbollah is carrying out a coup against the state. We demand the security forces to assume their responsibilities and stop the coup process, otherwise the putschists will bear the consequences of their actions.”لبنان- اشتباكاتلبنان- اشتباكاتArmed confrontations

And the Ministry of Health announced, in a statement, and in an official non-final toll, that the number of victims of the clashes “has reached six (dead) so far, and the number of wounded is 32, including two in critical condition, and they are being treated in the surrounding hospitals.”

Investigation into the Beirut Port Explosion 

Hezbollah and its ally Amal Movement lead the position rejecting Bitar’s work, accusing him of “acceptance and politicization”, which prompted the United States to express its rejection of what it described as “intimidation” of the judge of the Beirut port explosion file, Tariq Bitar, considering that “Hezbollah’s terrorism undermines Lebanon’s sovereignty.

In a press conference last Tuesday, Price said, in response to a question by Al-Hurra: “We and the international community have said several times that we support and call on the Lebanese authorities to complete the investigation into the terrible explosion in the port of Beirut quickly and transparently.”

“The victims of the 2020 explosion deserve justice and accountability, and we oppose the threat of any judge and support the independence of the Lebanese judiciary,” he added. 

He stressed that “judges should not be subjected to threats and intimidation, including from Hezbollah. We have been clear for a long time that Hezbollah’s terrorist activities threaten the security, sovereignty and stability of Lebanon. We believe that Hezbollah is more concerned about its own interests and the interests of its patron Iran than it is about the interests of its sponsor, Iran.” The Lebanese people. For the third time in a row, investigations into the Beirut port explosion case were suspended on Tuesday, while the judicial investigator, Judge Tariq Al-Bitar, issued an arrest warrant in absentia against the former Minister of Finance, Ali Hassan Khalil.

Many fear that pressure will lead to the removal of Bitar, similar to his predecessor, Fadi Sawan, who was removed in February after accusing political officials.

Since his claim against the former Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, and his request to prosecute deputies, former ministers and security, four concerned ministers have submitted complaints before multiple courts demanding that the case be transferred from Bitar’s hand, forcing him to suspend the investigation into the case twice so far.

On Tuesday, Bitar suspended the investigation pending a ruling on a lawsuit filed before the Civil Court of Cassation by the two current deputies, former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and former Minister of Works Ghazi Zuaiter, who belong to the Amal Movement bloc.

A judicial source told Agence France-Presse that the Civil Court of Cassation rejected the case on the grounds that the matter was not within its jurisdiction, because Bitar “is not a judge of the Court of Cassation.”

Following the decision, Bitar can resume his investigations. He is supposed to set interrogation dates for both Zuaiter and former Interior Minister Nouhad al-Machnouk, after he had to cancel their two interrogation sessions this week following the suspension of the investigation.

This is the second time that the judiciary has rejected a similar case against Bitar because the court has no jurisdiction to consider it.

Yesterday, Wednesday afternoon, the government was scheduled to hold a session to discuss the investigation track, a day after the cabinet witnessed tension after the ministers of Hezbollah and Amal demanded a change of the judicial investigator. However, Prime Minister Najib Mikati decided to postpone Wednesday’s meeting to a date to be determined later, pending a solution. 

On August 4, 2020, a huge explosion killed at least 214 people and injured more than 6,500 others, in addition to extensive destruction in the capital. The authorities attributed the explosion to the storage of large quantities of ammonium nitrate without protective measures. It turns out that officials at several levels were aware of the dangers of storing the substance.

The dispute arose within the government, after Bitar issued an arrest warrant in absentia against Khalil on Tuesday for his failure to attend his interrogation session, contenting with sending one of his agents, which Hezbollah considered, according to a ministerial source, as “a cross of red lines.”

The families of the victims constantly demonstrated in support of Bitar and denounced the defendants’ refusal to appear before him for interrogation, while human rights organizations denounced the attempt by political leaders to obstruct the investigations, and demanded the establishment of an independent and impartial international investigation mission.

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