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At least six people were killed and more than 30 others wounded after shooting erupted in Beirut’s Tayyouneh area during a protest by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement to denounce what they called the “politicization” of the Beirut port explosion investigation by Judge Tarek Bitar. The firefight escalated into an hourslong street battle and some of the worst sectarian clashes the capital has experienced in years. It was not immediately clear who initiated the shooting. Officials from the Shiite Hezbollah and Amal parties blamed the Lebanese Forces, a Christian party and their political opponent. LF leader Samir Geagea condemned the violence during the protest “called by Hezbollah” and blamed the escalation on “uncontrolled and widespread weapons that threaten citizens at all times and places.” The incident subsided in the late afternoon, but tensions remained high across the area as night fell. Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced later in the evening that all public administrations, institutions, municipalities and public and private schools would close today to mourn “for the souls of the martyrs who died in today’s events.” The Association of Banks in Lebanon also announced that all commercial banks will remain shut today.
Just hours before the violence in Tayyouneh, the Beirut port explosion probe was given the green light to resume after the Court of Cassation dismissed a legal complaint to remove Bitar from the case. The probe was suspended on Tuesday after the court officially notified Bitar of the complaint, filed by Amal MPs Ghazi Zeaiter and Ali Hassan Khalil. Hours before news of the suspension broke, the judge had issued an arrest warrant for Hassan Khalil, who had failed to submit for questioning scheduled earlier in the morning. The judge has faced immense pressure from Amal and its ally Hezbollah in his attempts to prosecute the two MPs. The parties have accused the judge of partiality and of politicizing the probe, and Zeaiter and Hassan Khalil have refused to turn up for interrogations. Attempts to stymie Bitar’s probe extend across the political spectrum, but for Zeaiter and Hassan Khalil in particular Bitar’s window of opportunity to question them is quickly closing. On Oct. 19, Parliament is scheduled to enter a regular session, and the legislators will once again be shielded by legal immunity.
The United States will offer an additional $67 million to support the Lebanese Army, US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland announced during a news conference in Beirut. Nuland met separately with Premier Najib Mikati, President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri as the Tayyouneh clashes escalated, offering Lebanon the US’s official condolences. Nuland said her country was working with Lebanese authorities, the World Bank and humanitarian relief agencies to help dig Lebanon out of its spiraling economic crisis. Yesterday’s donation follows US President Joe Biden’s authorization last month of up to $47 million in assistance for the cash-strapped Lebanese Armed Forces.
Demonstrations are set to take place on Sunday to mark the second anniversary of the Oct. 17 uprising, which saw hundreds of thousands of protesters pour into streets and squares across the nation, demanding the political class’ removal. A march in Beirut is expected to begin at the Justice Palace at 3 p.m. and then move through the Sodeco neighborhood, pass the Ring Bridge and the Association of Banks in Lebanon building and then conclude at Martyrs’ Square — which for weeks in late 2019 served as the uprising’s epicenter. In the two years since the nationwide protests began, Lebanon has been plunged into its worst economic crisis in decades, and its capital has suffered one of the largest nonnuclear explosions in history, which no top-level officials have been held accountable for.
Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.At least six people were killed and more than 30 others wounded after shooting erupted in Beirut’s Tayyouneh area during a protest by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement to denounce what they called the “politicization” of the Beirut port explosion investigation by Judge Tarek Bitar. The firefight escalated into an hourslong street...