BEIRUT — At least two people were killed Sunday in the Khaldeh area south of Beirut when gunmen ambushed the funeral procession for a Hezbollah member shot dead on Saturday night.
Hezbollah’s media spokesperson Rana Sahali confirmed to L’Orient Today on Sunday night that two people had died in the incident, which took place around 5 p.m. and triggered an exchange of gunfire in the area that continued for hours. Sahali had initially reported three deaths, but later revised this number downward, saying the third person was seriously injured. Local and international media outlets meanwhile cited an array of sources giving varying death tolls, while Lebanese Red Cross official Georges Kettaneh told L’Orient Today that four people had been seriously wounded but declined to confirm any death toll as the organization had yet to gain access to the area.
Footage of a video broadcast on Hezbollah’s Manar TV channel showed a volley of gunfire being launched at the convoy of mourners arriving at the home of slain Hezbollah member Ali Chebli. Chebli was killed on Saturday night when he was shot at point blank range while attending a wedding celebration at a resort in Jiyyeh, south of Beirut.
As the exchange of fire intensified Sunday evening, the Lebanese Army deployed heavily in the area, closing the coastal highway at Khaldeh in both directions. The army also announced it would fire at any gunman located in Khaldeh’s streets and at anyone who shoots from any other location.
As the Lebanese Red Cross waited to gain access to the area, it issued a statement calling on “everyone in Khaldeh to immediately cease fire so that our teams can intervene to rescue the wounded and transfer them to hospitals.”
The country’s political leaders also called for calm, fearing the degeneration of security in the country amid ongoing economic turmoil and widespread fuel and essential goods shortages.
President Micheal Aoun condemned the clashes in Khaldeh and asked the army to take immediate measures to restore stability in the area. “Given the current circumstances, Lebanon cannot handle any breach of security or practices that might fuel strife,” he said.
The Future Movement, for its part, released a statement calling on “all concerned parties” to assist the state security forces in bringing the situation under control. Abdel Salam Moussa, a spokesperson for the Sunni party, meanwhile told L’Orient Today that former Prime Minister Saad Hariri was reaching out to contacts in an effort to calm the clashes.
Hezbollah also issued a statement, calling on the army and security forces to “decisively intervene, impose security, arrest and bring the criminal killers to justice,” while Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati called on the head of the army to increase the security presence in Khaldeh.
The deadly events of the weekend are reportedly connected to an ongoing sectarian feud between Hezbollah supporters and Sunni tribesmen in Khaldeh. Chebli’s killing is believed to be linked to events in August 2020 when violent clashes between these two groups led to the death of a 14-year-old boy from the al-Arab tribe, a Sunni clan residing in the area.
While gunfire continued in Khaldeh on Sunday night, an Internal Security Forces source told L’Orient Today that the gunman who killed Chebli on Saturday is now in custody.
By around 9 p.m. Sunday, residents in the neighborhood were reporting that the situation had calmed. The army continued to maintain a heavy presence in the area and on the highway, setting up several checkpoints.
The army also succeeded in safely evacuating 15 members of Chebli’s family, along with the Chebli’s corpse, in military vehicles, the state-run National News Agency reported, saying the family had spent the evening trapped inside a house due to the fighting.
BEIRUT — At least two people were killed Sunday in the Khaldeh area south of Beirut when gunmen ambushed the funeral procession for a Hezbollah member shot dead on Saturday night.Hezbollah’s media spokesperson Rana Sahali confirmed to L’Orient Today on Sunday night that two people had died in the incident, which took place around 5 p.m. and triggered an exchange of gunfire in the area that...