Five people died in armed clashes that erupted in Beirut during a demonstration demanding the end of a judicial inquiry into massive explosion in city port .
The Lebanese Interior Ministry has confirmed the deaths and gunfire reportedly injured more than a dozen other people. The deployment of soldiers failed to stem the violence, which took on a sectarian tone. The fighting took place near a front line of the civil war in which militias from the Maronite Christian and Shia Muslim blocs have already clashed.
The rally was led by members of Amal and Hezbollah, two predominantly political parties Shiites whose respective leaders - Nabih Berri, the speaker of parliament, and Hassan Nasrallah - increasingly opposed the investigation into the blast. , which is headed by a judge, Tarek Bitar. It was not immediately clear how the shooting started.
Earlier Thursday, a court rejected a second attempt to remove Bitar, which is under investigation seen by many Lebanese as a brand -or-break event for the crippled state, which has made little progress in establishing the culprits behind one of the greatest industrial accidents in modern history.
The port of Beirut was a microcosm of the politics of Lebanon , which is ruled by fiefdoms and beset by an endemic graft which has led it to bankruptcy. The actors behind the port gates were loyal to the political masters who had remained in command since the end of the civil war.
The catastrophic explosion on August 4, 2020 was caused by the ignition of up to 2,750 tonnes of military grade ammonium nitrate after a fire, believed to have been caused by welding. The fireball destroyed the bulk terminal and much of the adjacent neighborhoods, killing at least 215 people. This has led to calls for an end to the political impunity that has characterized Lebanon since the signing of the pact to end the war.
However, demands that all aspects of the explosion be investigated to appear almost impossible to deliver, with ministers summoned for investigation refusing to attend , others suing Bitar and even more directly related to allegations of negligence not being involved at all. Beyond that, any regional dimension, long a source of speculation, seems far beyond the capacity of the judge to explore.
Thursday, the supporters of both Shiite movements gathered near the courthouse to demand the replacement of Bitar. Protesters were mobilized via social media forums Wednesday night and a scorching speech from Nasrallah, who called for an "honest " judge to replace Bitar.
Likewise, Ali Hasan Khalil, an MP for Amal, warned of" political escalation "if Bitar was not sidelined. He had received a marrest with two other ministers.
The new government of Prime Minister Najib Miqati has come under increasing pressure from both sides to either abandon the 'investigation, or replace the senior judge. A former judge was sacked after clashing with politicians.
H ezbollah and Amal both called on their supporters not to escalate tensions as armed men were pouring into the area. The Lebanese army increased its presence throughout the afternoon.
"We are so deeply polarized," said Mazen Khoury, a resident of the neighboring district of Badaro. "Christians are the ones who lost the most in the blast of the port, their homes and their future. It is suspected that other parties have caused this and changed the face of the country. What is happening today reflects this. "