Lebanon’s pro-democracy chaos reawakens memories of the country’s civil war.
The scenes that flooded the streets of Beirut on Thursday were all too familiar to many Lebanese: bullets riddling residential facades, snipers on roofs, citizens sheltering inside their homes.
The same paramilitary groups, the same neighborhoods: the news flashes and blame game that inundated social media as a rally in Lebanon’s capital degenerated into fatal pandemonium read like headlines from the country’s civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 1990.
The fighting centered on Tayouneh, a town at the crossroads of Shiite and Christian militia strongholds that served as battlegrounds during the civil war that ended three decades ago.
It began in the morning with a rally by members of the Shiite movements Amal and Hezbollah, who demanded the removal of the judge overseeing the investigation into last year’s tragic port explosion.
Unconfirmed sniper fire hit a group of protestors, triggering a fierce response led by Amal warriors, who arrived in huge numbers equipped with rocket-propelled grenades and assault guns.
They targeted residential houses on the outskirts of Ain al-Remmaneh, a Christian neighborhood separated from the Amal stronghold of Chiyah by a road that served as a vital boundary during the civil war.
They were killed by snipers who Amal and Hezbollah said belonged to the Christian militia Lebanese Forces, but the latter denied it.
Nabih Berri, a senior parliament speaker, leads Amal, while Samir Geagea leads the Lebanese Forces. Both warlords-turned-politicians have been in charge of their respective organizations for 41 and 35 years, respectively.
One could be excused for mistaking Thursday’s footage of the fighting for archives from the 1980s if it weren’t for the automobiles parked on the streets.
On social media, a video from a mobile phone was shared. On Thursday, youngsters crouched against a school wall to protect themselves from stray gunfire raining down on their neighborhood.
A 24-year-old lady was shot in the head by a bullet that came through the window, according to at least one of the six people confirmed to have perished.
Sahar, 41, was born in the midst of the Lebanese civil war, and Thursday’s flare-up brought back painful childhood memories for her.
“I’ve been getting notes from people who grew up with me during the war, bemoaning the fact that a whole new generation now has to go through the same thing,” she said.
“It’s a terrible thing,” she told AFP, “because it makes us conscious of the past, present, and future… as if we’re locked in a time loop.”
“Yes, they are. The Washington Newsday Brief News is a daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C.