Three members of Hezbollah were killed Thursday after heavy clashes in the Tayouneh neighborhood of Beirut. The violence was prompted by Hezbollah-led protests calling for the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar who is leading the investigation into last year’s Beirut Port explosion.
The funeral ceremony for the three slain militants was held in the southern suburbs of Beirut on Friday. Social media posts indicated that at least one of the militants, Muhammed Sayyed, took part in the Syrian civil war.
Additionally, the Amal movement – a close ally of Hezbollah – announced on its Facebook page Thursday that three of its members had been killed in the clashes. They were also buried Friday in a separate funeral ceremony.
The fighting began Thursday as Hezbollah-led protestors were heading to the Palace of Justice district to call for the removal of the judge leading the investigation into the Beirut Port explosion. An ‘exchange of gunfire’ took place, and the army deployed to the area which resulted in the arrest of nine individuals ‘from both sides’ including a Syrian, according to a Lebanese Army statement.
Hezbollah and its allies were quick to blame the Maronite-Christian political party Lebanese Forces, and its leader, Samir Geagea, for the attack. The Deputy Chairman of the Executive Council of Hezbollah Sheikh Ali Damoush said the assault was a ‘planned criminal act carried out by the Lebanese Forces with American instigation to take revenge on those who exposed their project to conspire against Lebanon, its resistance and its allies…’
Thursday’s event was preceded by Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah calling for the replacement of Judge Bitar during a televised address on Monday.
‘The targeting is clear; you are picking certain officials and certain people. The bias is clear,’ Nasrallah stated.
The criticism from Nasrallah comes several weeks after Hezbollah reportedly warned Bitar that he would be removed from the investigation.
Despite the intervention of the Lebanese Army, tension between Lebanese Forces and Hezbollah lingers and will likely continue as the investigation into the Beirut Port blast moves forward. A Lebanese Forces official, Imad Wakim, expressed this feeling bluntly in a Twitter post on Thursday.
‘The confrontation that emerged are not between parties nor two sects, nor two areas.. It is the confrontation between Hezbollah and the remaining free Lebanese of all sects, in order to preserve what remains of the state institutions and to protect them from Hezbollah’s dominance. It is to preserve justice.’
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