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TAYYOUNEH CLASHES

Beirut violence: Who was involved?

Militiamen during Thursday’s clashes in Tayyouneh. (Credit: Anwar Amro/AFP)

BEIRUT — At least seven people were killed and dozens wounded on Thursday when violence erupted during a protest staged in front of the Justice Palace in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

The rally was organized by the Amal Movement and Hezbollah to demand that Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the investigation into last year’s monster blast at the Beirut port, be removed.

The ensuing street violence was reminiscent of the 1975–90 Civil War, which involved several of the same players. Who exactly was involved in Thursday’s flare-up?

Amal Movement

The Shiite movement that Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has headed since 1980 is a political party but it also has a militia that was a major player in the Civil War and was the most visible armed force on Thursday.

Hundreds of Amal fighters poured into the streets of its Chiyah bastion, firing assault rifles and RPGs toward the Christian stronghold of Ain al-Rummaneh.

Among the most senior officials summoned by Bitar as part of his probe into the Aug. 4, 2020, explosion are two former Amal ministers.

At least three of those killed on Thursday were Amal members.

Hezbollah

The Shiite group is a political party with significant representation in Parliament as well as a powerful militia backed by Iran, which has used it as a proxy for external operations across the region.

Often described as a state within the state, it was the only group to keep its arsenal after the war, arguing that it was the best rampart against Israel, a premise that now divides the political class.

Hassan Nasrallah, the movement's leader since 1992, unleashed a strident attack against Bitar on Monday, accusing him of political bias and demanding he be replaced. 

Hezbollah fighters were seen on the streets taking part in the fighting on Thursday, albeit in smaller numbers than Amal.

Lebanese Forces

The Christian group headed by Samir Geagea since 1986 was a key player in the Civil War. 

It morphed into a political party, and its leader is the only one who served jail time after the war, but it has retained a militia in its strongholds in suburban Beirut and the north of the country.

Hezbollah accused the Lebanese Forces, which supports the port investigation, of being responsible for deadly sniper fire against anti-Bitar protesters that ignited Thursday’s chaos.

The LF issued a statement strenuously denying the accusation, and no Christian militiamen were seen on the streets during the violence.

Lebanese Army

The army deployed heavily when the violence broke out, blocking the streets around the flashpoint area of Tayyouneh.

It did nothing to disarm or push back the militiamen who deployed en masse, with RPG and rifle fire zipping above its patrols.

The army conducted searches in Ain al-Rummaneh buildings to track down snipers and announced nine arrests late Thursday, but the identity of the first shooter remains a mystery.



BEIRUT — At least seven people were killed and dozens wounded on Thursday when violence erupted during a protest staged in front of the Justice Palace in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

The rally was organized by the Amal Movement and Hezbollah to demand that Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the investigation into last year’s monster blast at the...