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Gunfire in Beirut protest leaves five dead and nine injured

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The Lebanese Red Cross reported six deaths during armed clashes in the Lebanese capital. Lebanese Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi told reporters that snipers and gunmen “shot people in the head” while four B7 rockets were fired into the air, in the worst violence the crisis-stricken capital has seen in over 10 years.

Hundreds of supporters of Iran-backed Hezbollah and its Shiite ally Amal were marching on the city’s Palace of Justice when shots were fired at protesters by snipers on the roof, forcing demonstrators and journalists to cover themselves, according to the country’s interior minister. . , a statement from the military and local broadcaster.

Social media footage showed masked gunmen, apparently linked to protesters, firing RPGs and AK-47s from alleys and from behind garbage dumps and roadblocks.

Smoke was seen coming out of buildings that appeared to have been fired upon. The epicenter of the violence, the Tayouneh neighborhood, is close to the birthplace of the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war and has raised the specter of further violence in the crisis-stricken country.

Gunfire and rocket fire stopped four hours after the fighting began. Part of the traffic returned to the streets of the capital after Lebanese Civil Defense and Red Cross teams evacuated residents shelled by Tayouneh.

In a joint statement, Hezbollah and Amal accused the Christian right-wing party, the Lebanese Forces, of being behind the sniper attacks. The party, which had previously threatened to send counter-demonstrators to Thursday’s planned protests, has not responded to the allegations.

“It is very clear that those who shot at the protesters were organized armed groups that have been planning this attack since yesterday,” a senior Hezbollah official told CNN. “We will not retaliate. They want to drag us into civil strife and we do not want to sow civil strife.”

Hezbollah has been a strong opponent of Tarek Bitar, the popular judge who is leading the Beirut bombing investigation, and has demanded the prosecution of high-ranking officials. This week, the judge issued an arrest warrant against lawmaker Ali Hassan Khalil, a senior Amal official and former finance minister.

Hezbollah threatens senior judge investigating blast in Beirut port, source says

Bitar has also issued arrest warrants against MP Nouhad Machnouk, an ally of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and a former interior minister.

Since his appointment in February, Bitar, who also heads the Beirut criminal court, has been seeking senior political and security officials to be questioned in the Beirut blast investigation. He is the second judicial investigator to lead the investigation. The first judge in charge of handling the investigation was fired after two former ministers accused in the investigation successfully filed a motion for his removal.

Several legal petitions by prosecuting officials to dismiss Bitari have been unsuccessful.

During a televised speech Monday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah condemned the judge, accusing him of “politicizing” him.

For two years, Lebanon has been in crisis of an economic depression that has led to rising inflation, poverty rates and unemployment, as well as rapid deterioration in the country’s infrastructure.

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