Deadly clashes in Beirut Thursday left six people dead and dozens more injured in what has been described as the worst street violence in 13 years.
The armed confrontations occurred at demonstrations that called for the firing of a judge investigating the 2020 Beirut port explosion that killed 218 people.
Investigation into port explosion leads to deadly clashes in Beirut
Hezbollah and their allies called for the protests. They had accused Judge Tarek Bitar of being biased. The militant group said the judge was targeting people politically.
Bitar wanted to question some ex-ministers from the Amal Movement, which has ties to Hezbollah.
Earlier on Thursday, a court dismissed the complaints from the former government officials and allowed the investigation to move forward.
President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Najib Mikati both support the judge.
However, some members of the Lebanese Council of Ministers with links to Hezbollah had pushed for the judge to be fired.
The country is divided over the future of the investigation. Some want to move forward, while others say that such a crime cannot go unpunished.
Most observers see the investigation as a turning point for the country.
The situation took a violent turn when the protesters were targeted by sniper fire coming from residential buildings in the area.
The protesters quickly responded. Hezbollah puts the blame on right-wing Christian Lebanese Forces.
Soldiers deployed were unable to alter the trajectory of the clashes.
According to Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi, all the victims are Shia Muslims.
Despite calls from politicians to deescalate the conflict, men from Hezbollah took to the streets in a show of force after the clashes.
Later in the day, the fighting stopped, but Beirut remained on high alert because the issues that led to the clashes have not been addressed.
The capital of Lebanon was primarily calm on Friday, and world leaders continued to call for an end to the conflict. The streets of Beirut were empty.
Images of the civil war are never too far, and what happened on Thursday was a sad reminder. This comes as the country is grappling with poverty.
Judge Tarek Bitar is seen as a voice for the future
President Aoun said the forces responsible for Thursday’s clashes would be brought to justice. Nine people were arrested, including a Syrian.
Mr. Aoun also said that violence could not return to the country as a form of expression. The army is still deployed and trying to protect the fragile truce.
The new generation sees Bitar as a forward-looking figure who is fighting for a better future.
However, the call for a change is now facing steep opposition from forces like Hezbollah that are deeply rooted in the past with the support of elite members.
It is not clear which side will prevail in a fight for the soul of Lebanon that may have ramifications for other countries in the Arab world.
The outcome of the investigation will also determine the state of the country in the near future. The two sides are watching where things will go.
The international community does not seem to have an appetite for pushing one way or the other.
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