Economic collapse, energy shortages, and now the threat of civil war in Lebanon
New sectarian violence in Lebanon has sparked fears of a return to civil war among opposing parties fighting for power over a population who are rapidly approaching their breaking point.
As supporters of the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah and Amal movements marched in protest of a firebrand judge called Tarek Bitar, gunfire and explosives erupted Thursday outside the Justice Palace in the Beirut suburbs of Chiyah, Ein Rummaneh, and Tayouneh. Hezbollah and Amal accuse Bitar of being politically biased in his probe of a horrific port blast that ripped through the capital in August, and they are calling for his dismissal.
At the rally, tempers had flared, but the deadly escalation would kick off a chain of events that would dominate Lebanon’s split conversation for some time.
According to local sources and rescue staff, one man was killed first, then as the dust cleared and security forces entered, several more were slain, most of them members of the anti-Bitar demonstration, but also a woman who was shot dead while in her apartment.
Members of both Shiite Muslim organizations replied by firing assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers in some of the fiercest confrontations to erupt in the capital in years, blaming a rival Christian party known as the Lebanese Forces for the incident.
And the particular confluence of neighborhoods where the unrest erupted holds a special place in the hearts of many Lebanese: it was the commencement of a 15-year civil war that immobilized the country from 1975 until 1990.
Those living in a new period of uncertainty are now fearful that the worst is yet to come.
One Lebanese resident who resides in Ein Rummaneh and observed the confrontation told The Washington Newsday, “We’re in the midst of a ticking time bomb.”
Due to the critical security situation in Beirut, the civilian requested anonymity. He described Lebanese Forces drawing first blood and Hezbollah retaliating.
However, the two opposing sides of Thursday’s tragedy have developed opposing narratives.
“With the participation of senior lawyers, there was a peaceful demonstration opposing the politicization of the judiciary.” This is a condensed version of the information.