Gunfire killed at least three people in Beirut on Thursday as supporters of the Shiite group Hezbollah and its allies gathered in the Lebanese capital to protest against the judge investigating last year’s catastrophic port explosion. Follow our live coverage.
12:25am Paris time
- Death toll rises to at least three, medics say
Tank deployments and deadly exchanges of fire have turned parts of Beirut into a war zone, AFP reports, with medics saying casualties have risen to at least three dead and 20 wounded by gunfire.
The Lebanese army has reported “bursts of gunfire in the area of Tayouneh – Badaro”, in the mainly Shiite southern suburbs of the capital.
“The army rushed to cordon off the area and deploy in its neighbourhoods and their entrance. Patrols started as did the search for the shooters to detain them,” the military said.
In a follow-up statement, the army warned it would open fire at anyone firing live rounds, calling on civilians to evacuate the area.
12:07am Paris time
It was not immediately clear what triggered the gunfire, but tensions were high along a former civil war front-line between Muslim Shiite and Christian areas of Beirut.
The army deployed heavily and sent patrols to the area to search for the gunmen. In a statement, Prime Minister Najib Mikati appealed for calm and urged people “not to be dragged into civil strife.”
11:55am Paris time
- Gunfire follows key court ruling on port blast investigation
The violence comes as a court on Thursday dismissed a legal complaint against Judge Tarek Bitar, allowing him to resume his investigation into the August explosion in the port of Beirut, which killed more than 200 people and devastated swathes of the capital.
Bitar, a target of a political campaign led by the Shiite movements Hezbollah and Amal, was forced to suspend his probe for a second time in less than a month on Tuesday over lawsuits filed by former ministers he had summoned on suspicion of criminal negligence.
The suspension coincided with deep divisions within the government over whether to replace the controversial investigator, who is seen as a last hope for justice by many Lebanese but is condemned as biased by political leaders.
11:44am Paris time
- Shots kill at least one and injure eight others at Beirut protest
Welcome to our live coverage of clashes in the Lebanese capital, where at least one person was killed when gunfire erupted at a protest calling for the removal of a judge investigating last year’s catastrophic Beirut port blast.
The protest outside the Justice Palace was called for by the powerful Hezbollah group and its allies who are demanding the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar.
Gunfire echoed in the capital, and ambulances rushed to the scene, sirens wailing, amid reports of casualties. A Beirut hospital said it received the body of one person who had died and eight who were injured.
The initial shooting has escalated into street clashes, says FRANCE 24’s Wassim Nasr, posting footage of the fighting on Twitter.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP, AP)