Gunfire rocks Beirut in protest over choose main port blast inquiry | Lebanon

Armed clashes have damaged out in Beirut throughout a protest towards the lead choose investigating final yr’s huge blast within the metropolis’s port, as tensions over the investigation boiled over.

Gunfire rocked the capital and ambulances attended the scene amid stories of casualties.

The protest exterior the Justice Palace was referred to as for by the highly effective Hezbollah group and its allies, who’re demanding the removing of a choose, Tarek Bitar.

It was not instantly clear what triggered the gunfire however tensions have been excessive alongside a former civil struggle frontline between Muslim Shia and Christian areas.

A witness noticed a person open hearth with a pistol throughout the protest. One other witness stated he noticed individuals taking pictures within the path of protesters from the balcony of a constructing.

At the very least two males have been injured and bleeding. There was a heavy military presence within the space after the taking pictures.

Protesters demand the removing of Tarek Bitar, the lead choose of the port blast investigation, close to the Justice Palace in Beirut. {Photograph}: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters

Lots of of tons of ammonium nitrates that had been improperly saved at a port warehouse detonated on 4 August 2020, killing at the least 215 individuals, injuring 1000’s and destroying components of close by neighbourhoods. It was one of many largest non-nuclear explosions in historical past and has additional devastated Lebanon, already roiled by political divisions and financial and monetary meltdown.

Bitar, the second choose to steer the investigation, has confronted formidable opposition from Hezbollah and its allies, who accuse him of singling out politicians for questioning, most of them allied with Hezbollah. None of Hezbollah’s officers have to this point been charged within the 14-month investigation.

The armed conflict might derail Lebanon’s month-long authorities, even earlier than it begins tackling the financial disaster. A cupboard assembly was cancelled on Wednesday after Hezbollah demanded pressing authorities motion towards the choose.

One Hezbollah-allied minister stated he and different cupboard members would stage a walkout if Bitar was not eliminated.

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