Lebanon's Hezbollah resistance movement says it will not be dragged into a civil war, despite the killing of seven Shia Muslims during recent violence, which is blamed on the Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) Party.
At least seven people were killed and 60 others injured in an attack on Thursday, 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.
Speaking at the funeral of Hezbollah members killed on Thursday, senior Hezbollah leader Hashem Safieddine said the LF political party, a former militia group during the 1975-1990 civil war, is trying to ignite a new war.
"Because they know that we don't want civil strife, they dared to do that," he said during the funeral in the southern suburbs of Beirut, stressing that, "We will not be dragged into civil war."
But Safieddine emphasized that, "We will not let the blood of our martyrs be in vain."
He noted that the LF is taking orders from the United States, and is financed by "some Arab countries."
After the Thursday 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 Adliyeh 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 Movement, said armed groups affiliated with Samir Geagea's LF Party fired at the protesters from rooftops, aiming at their heads, in an attempt to drag Lebanon into new sectarian strife.
The victims included three members of the Amal Movement.
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.
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 Defense Council did not grant him permission to do so.