A top-level meeting at Lebanon’s Interior Ministry has concluded that the far-right Lebanese Forces (LF) political party, led by Samir Geagea, had started the Thursday shooting in Beirut that killed six people on Thursday.
All details of the bloody event were discussed in a meeting of the Central Security Council at Lebanon’s Interior Ministry, in the presence of the leaders of the security services, who unanimously agreed that members of the LF had started the shooting.
At least six people were killed and 60 others injured in the attack, during which Hezbollah supporters were shot from rooftops, while they were gathering to peacefully protest against a judge investigating last year’s Beirut Port explosion as they accused him of bias.
After the incident, the Lebanese Army issued a statement, saying “the protesters, as they headed to the Adliyeh area, were fired upon in the Tayouneh-Badaro area.”
However, observers noted contradictions between the army statement and a second statement that was issued after a meeting with US Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland.
The second army statement said when protesters headed to the Al-Adliya area for their sit-in, there was a dispute and an “exchange of fire” took place, which led to the killing of a number of citizens and the injury of others.
In a statement, Hezbollah and its ally Amal said armed groups affiliated with Geagea's Lebanese Forces party fired at the protesters from rooftops, aiming at their heads in an attempt to drag Lebanon into a new sectarian strife.
According to The Cradle, one of the officers attending the Interior Ministry meeting produced details about snipers spread out across the roofs of surrounding buildings in advance of events, who then opened fire on protesters as they passed from the Tayouneh area.
Armed LF assailants had already been deployed in the internal streets of the adjacent Ain al-Remmaneh neighborhood since early morning to prepare for the confrontation, a security source told the investigative media platform.
The unnamed source revealed that as the protesters were passing on the Old Sidon road, there were already provocations by a gathering of forces in Zaroub al-Farr School, who threw stones at the demonstrators even before the LF assailants attacked them.
Military sources also said that no one was arrested after the army stormed a number of buildings from which the shooting was directed.
Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has accused Judge Tarek Bitar, who is investigating the Beirut port explosion, of “politically targeting” officials in his investigation.
Bitar has for months tried to question former prime minister Hasan Diab as well as ex-ministers Ali Hasan Khalil, Ghazi Zeiter, Nouhad Machnouk and Youssef Finianos. Khalil and Zeiter belong to the Amal Movement, a closely allied to Hezbollah.
The judge has also sought to summon General Security chief Major General Abbas Ibrahim and State Security head, Major General Tony Saliba. However, the Interior Ministry and Higher Defence Council did not grant him permission to do so.
Iran condemns Beirut shooting
In a statement on Friday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman condemned the Beirut shooting, called for restraint and calm in Lebanon.
The Islamic Republic “believes that through their cohesion and unity, the Lebanese people, government and army, along with the resistance, will emerge victorious as always against the seditions and conspiracies rooted in the Zionist regime and designed and carried out by the regime’s masters and agents,” Saeed Khatibzadeh said.
Khatibzadeh offered his condolences to the Lebanese government and people, particularly the bereaved families of the victims, and wished a quick recovery for the injured.
He called on the Lebanese government and resistance to immediately identify and arrest the perpetrators behind such crimes against and provocations among the Lebanese people.
Hezbollah also called on the army to intervene quickly and detain the perpetrators, and called on its supporters to remain calm and “not be drawn to malicious discord.”
Geagea's history of sedition
Geagea was tried and convicted in 1994 for ordering four political assassinations, including the assassination of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Rashid Karami in 1987, and the unsuccessful attempted assassination of Defense Minister Michel Murr in 1991.
The LF and Geagea are known for their close affiliation to the West and Saudi Arabia, a country that has sought to increase its sway in Lebanon mainly to block the rise of Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah.
The LF party that now holds 15 out of 64 Christian seats in the Lebanese parliament was previously a militia group that emerged from the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990).