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Lebanese army says has referred case of recent Beirut violence to military prosecution

Supporters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement carry the coffin of one of their members who was killed during clashes in the Tayouneh neighborhood of the capital Beirut a day earlier, October 15, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

The Lebanese army says an investigation into a killing spree targeting Hezbollah supporters in Beirut last week has been finished and those detained were referred to the General Military Prosecution.

The army made the announcement in a statement on its website on Monday. It came after resistance parties Hezbollah and its ally, Amal, called on the army to intervene quickly and detain the perpetrators. They also called on their supporters to remain calm and “not be drawn to malicious discord.”

The gunfire at Tayyoune neighborhood on October 14 targeted hundreds of people who had gathered in the vicinity of Beirut’s Justice Palace.

At least seven people were killed in the worst street violence in Beirut in over a decade.

Hezbollah and Amal said armed groups affiliated with the Lebanese Forces party, led by Samir Geagea, fired at the protesters from rooftops, aiming at their heads in an attempt to drag Lebanon into a new sectarian strife. The Lebanese Forces is a Maronite Christian-based political party. It was also supported by Israel as a militia group during the 1975-90 Civil War.

Geagea was on Monday summoned for a hearing by Lebanon’s Army Intelligence over the fatal shooting in Beirut. Geagea’s hearing has been set for 9 a.m. on Wednesday at the Defense Ministry in Yarze, south of Beirut.

Following the killing spree, Lebanon’s former President Emile Lahoud pointed to the involvement of the Israeli regime, and certain mercenaries in the violence.

Meanwhile, grand Shia Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Qabalan held the US embassy in Beirut and the judge probing the Beirut port explosion accountable for any bloodshed in Lebanon. Sheikh Qabalan also called on the government and judiciary to take immediate action to prevent the country from being drawn into another violent cycle.

The deputy chief of Hezbollah, Sheikh Naim Qassem, has also censured the judge leading the investigation into the 2020 port explosion, saying he is causing trouble for the country by politicizing the case and must therefore be dismissed.

Tarek Bitar, the judge in the port explosion’s case, has for months tried to question former ministers Ali Hasan Khalil, Ghazi Zeiter, Nouhad Machnouk, Youssef Finianos, and former Prime Minister Hasan Diab. He has also asked to summon the general security chief, Major-General Abbas Ibrahim, and the state security head, Major-General Tony Saliba. However, the interior ministry and the Higher Defense Council have not granted him permission to do so.

More than 200 people were killed and about 6,500 wounded in the explosion at Beirut’s port. A huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate, which had been stored unsafely at the port for years, had detonated. The explosion has left Lebanon’s economy — already reeling from multiple crises, including the breakdown of its banking system, spiraling inflation and the coronavirus pandemic — in tatters. Western meddling and the US sanctions have worsened the deteriorating financial and political crisis.

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