BEIRUT — A plane that was landing Wednesday evening in Beirut's international airport appeared to narrowly miss live gunfire taking place at the same time in the nearby Jnah neighborhood in the southern suburbs.
The bullets were reportedly part of a fatal gun battle between two rival families in the surroundings of the airport.
Videos filmed by local residents and posted on social networks show the plane descending toward the airstrip as tracer bullets fly in its direction.
The clashes on Wednesday in Jnah took place between two families in the area, leaving one dead and several injured, according to the state-run National News Agency, which did not reveal the reasons for the incident.
The Internal Security Forces (ISF) did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The mayor of nearby Ghobeiry, Maan Khalil, who is also in charge of the Jnah area, told L'Orient-Le Jour that he was not aware of the shooters' identities.
"This is a practice that is becoming more and more common in the country, unfortunately," he said. "Lebanese shoot in the air for any reason. I call on the security services and justice to intervene."
Plane not directly targeted
Fady al-Hassan, director general of the airport and civil aviation, told L'Orient-Le Jour that "the plane was not hit by bullets."
"It was landing when the shooting took place in Jnah and it was not directly targeted," he added.
Caretaker Transport Minister Ali Hamieh also confirmed this information on local channel Al Jadeed.
"An incident took place between two families in Jnah during which shots were exchanged. Neither the airport nor the plane was targeted," the minister said.
Later on, in a statement, he announced that seven people had been arrested in the case. "The army was massively deployed in the airport vicinity to ensure safety," he added.
"The safety of the Beirut airport and all inbound and outbound planes is a priority that the authorities don't take lightly. Every person who shoots next to the airport must be arrested," he stated.
Several similar incidents
Similar incidents have occurred in recent months around the Beirut airport, due to frequent clashes between rival families in the area or during celebratory shootings.
In November 2022, a stray bullet pierced the fuselage of a Middle East Airlines plane before it landed in Beirut. MP Paula Yacoubian, who was on board the plane, called via Twitter to "stop the free flow of weapons and stray bullets."
In January 2022, the Greek company Aegean Airlines suspended its flights to Beirut after damage was found on the fuselage of one of its planes that had landed the day before in the Lebanese capital.
Reacting to these incidents, Hassan told L'Orient-Le Jour Thursday that he urged security forces "to put an end to these kinds of actions."
"This problem needs a solution that goes beyond the airport management alone," he said. He also denied that such incidents occur on a regular basis.