Mon, 06 Dec 2021

Gunfire killed at least six 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. Hezbollah has called for the judge to be removed. Follow our live coverage.

18:34pm Paris time

  • Nine people arrested after clashes

Lebanon's army says it has arrested nine people, including a Syrian, after Thursday's clashes.

The army said on Twitter that it remained deployed in the area to ensure violence did not occur again.

18:29pm Paris time

  • UN chief calls on end to violence in Lebanon

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, is calling on "all concerned" to halt the violence in Lebanon and to refrain from provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric.

Guterres also reiterated the need for an impartial, thorough and transparent investigation into the 2020 explosion at the port of Beirut.

18:25pm Paris time

  • Lebanon declares Friday national day of mourning for those killed in violence

Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati has announced via a tweet that Friday will be a day of national mourning for those who died in Thursday's clashes.

18:02pm Paris time

  • President vows attackers will be held accountable

In a televised speech, Lebanese President Michel Aoun said that those who were responsible for the violence that erupted in Beirut on Thursday and left at least six people dead will be held accountable.

Aoun said it was "unacceptable that weapons are once more the means of communication among Lebanese rivals".

17:26pm Paris time

  • Witness: 'Areas of Beirut turned into warzones'

In the video below, Sofia Amara, a reporter in Beirut, tells FRANCE 24 about the scenes of horror she witnessed as violence broke out in Beirut earlier Thursday. "Heavy shooting turned areas of Beirut, especially near the ministry of justice, into warzones."

17:24pm Paris time

  • PM apologises to Lebanese people for violence

In an interview with the Annahar newspaper later Thursday, Prime Minister Najib Mikati apologised to the Lebanese people for Thursday's deadly violence, but noted he had been informed by the army that the security situation in the capital had now improved.

Mikati added that the government is an executive power and that it therefore cannot interfere in the judiciary.

The prime minister also said that his government will remain in power and "calmly handle" the investigation into the Beirut port blast.

Mikati said that although Thursday's violence was "discouraging", his government is committed to holding the country's elections according to the constitutional dates.

16:48pm Paris time

  • Lebanese Forces deny involvement in shootings, condemn violence

The right-wing Lebanese Forces (LF) has issued a statement denying any involvement in Thursday's shootings in Beirut, after Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah had said the Christian party was to blame.

The LF said it strongly condemned Thursday's events and blamed the violence on Hezbollah's "incitement" against the lead investigator into last year's Beirut port blast.

Hezbollah has called for the judge to be removed.

15:51pm Paris time

  • Analysis: Fighting over for now, but politicisation of hot-button issues has raised risks of more violence

In the video below, Maha Yahya, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Centre, tells FRANCE 24 why she doesn't believe another Lebanese civil war - like that seen between 1975-1990 - is on the horizon, but notes that the increased politicisation of hot-button national issues, such as last year's port explosion, is raising "the potential of an outbreak of violence, similarly to what we saw today".

15:43pm Paris time

  • Beirut death toll climbs to six

Lebanese authorities say at least six people have been killed and 30 wounded in the clashes.

14:35pm Paris time

  • Hezbollah says protesters came under sniper attack

The powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah has issued a statement accusing the Christian Lebanese Forces of placing snipers on top of buildings to shoot at protesters.

Thursday's protest near the Justice Palace in Beirut was meant to take place along a former civil war front line between Muslim Shiite and Christian areas.

The right-wing Lebanese Forces had mobilised supporters the day before, in response to Hezbollah's calls to protest outside the Justice Palace. Videos circulating on social media on Wednesday evening showed supporters of the Catholic movement marching through the streets, carrying large crosses.

14:17pm Paris time

  • France urges 'de-escalation', support for Beirut port blast probe

The French foreign ministry has said it is "deeply concerned" about the unrest in Beirut, calling for immediate "de-escalation".

The ministry said the Lebanese judiciary must be able to work on their probe into the fatal port explosion "in an independent and impartial manner", noting that Lebanese authorities must "fully support" the investigation.

Thursday's clashes broke out shortly after a court dismissed a legal complaint against Judge Tarek Bitar, allowing him to resume his investigation into the August 2020 explosion that devastated swathes of Beirut, killing more than 200 people.

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.

>> Who is out to get the judge in charge of Lebanon port explosion probe?

13:57pm Paris time

  • UN envoy: 'It is critical to show maximum restraint'

Joanna Wronecka, the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, expressed her concern about the violence in Beirut in a Twitter post, saying that it was crucial to show restraint and ensure the safety of citizens.

13:45pm Paris time

  • Footage of snipers circulating on social media

FRANCE 24's Beirut correspondent Sally Farhat says video footage of snipers purportedly involved in Thursday's shootings has been circulating on local social media.

13:20pm Paris time

  • Lebanon's interior minister says death toll climbs to five

Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi told a press conference that some of the victims had head injuries, suggesting they were shot by snipers. He called the events, "a very dangerous sign."

At least 30 people have been wounded, according to the Lebanese Red Cross.

12:55pm Paris time

  • 24-year-old woman killed by stray bullet

The death toll has climbed to at least four, including a woman who was shot in the head by a stray bullet while inside her home, a military source has said.

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

  • Lebanese prime minister appeals for calm

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)

Originally published on France24

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