Alwaght- A rally protesting a judge order for arrest of a number of cabinet ministers and lawmakers turned violent in Beirut on Thursday, killing 6 and injuring over 20. Gunmen attacked people marching to the justice palace in Tayouneh neighborhood of Beirut, causing the worst street violence in decades.
Five people were killed and about 20 others were injured in the clashes and shootings near the rally site, news sources said. One of the perpetrators of the shooting has been arrested. Al-Mayadeen news network’s website put the number of the deaths at 6. "One person who was shot in the head was taken to the hospital and eight others were injured, three of whom are in critical condition," said Maryam Hassan, emergency director of Beirut Al-Sahel Hospital.
Two explosions were heard in the Lebanese capital following clashes near a protest site against a judge investigating the Beirut port blast case. Meanwhile, a news outlet reported in a breaking news that two people were killed and nine others were injured during the clashes as an initial result. Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati called for calm after the clashes.
Alwaght has talked to Musaib Naeemi, an Iranian expert of regional affairs, asking him for answers about what is going on in Lebanon.
Asked about the goals behind the attack on the peaceful protestors outside the justice palace, Mr Naeemi said that attack targeted peaceful demonstrators who came to protest the performance of Judge Tariq Baytar, the chief prosecutor of the last year’s devastating Beirut port explosions. Gunmen attacked the people as the protests started, he added.
“The recent protests are related to the Beirut explosion case. The port of Beirut was under government control at the time of the blast, and Phalangist forces had also infiltrated it. The investigation had found that Syrian takfiris were behind the blast and additional probe was to be launched. The protestors had called for the judge to include an inquiry on the relations between the explosives and the takfiri groups. As the judge resisted, they took to the streets for protests. Protests at various parts of government are ordinary and have so far taken place several times. But during the Thursday rally, snipers targeted people from the rooftops. Some of the victims were from Hezbollah supporters. Obviously, these victims were identified in advance. Apparently, the shooting was by sides who are after crisis and new security troubles for the country. The goal of these shootings is distancing the public opinion from the main culprits of the port explosion. Those behind the shooting are now identified and it is the duty of the army and the security forces to bring the assailants to justice.”
Commenting on the US role in the recent Lebanese developments, Mr Naeemi said that the Americans and Israelis have always been seeking crisis and insecurity in Lebanon. What matters the most for the US in Lebanon, the Iranian expert continued, is their supporters being in power in Beirut. “Otherwise, Tel Aviv and Washington go to great lengths to fuel home tensions and conflicts.”
“Concerning the explosion, it is clear who to blame for that; those who owned the explosives and stored them for 12 years in the port. The port authorities should answer because the explosive material was paid for by a bank account in Ukraine. It was not transported or owned by Hezbollah. Sufficient documents suggest that it belonged to Syrian takfiri groups, backed by the West and some Arab countries, who have been fighting the central government in Damascus for a decade. The indirect factors are the authorities who were in charge in the port. Charges against Hezbollah are unthinkable. An investigation by an independent judge is set to be launched.”
Mr Naeemi added that the perpetrators of last year's big explosion in Beirut must be identified and there must be no deviation from reality. Government ministers are responsible in this case. The minister of roads and transportation and the director general of customs affairs in this case have not been charged despite their responsibility. The type of accusation shows that some people want to divert the investigation process and turn the peaceful demonstrations into a civil war and bury the port case. Turning the peaceful protest into a crime scene and a security crisis is for overshadowing the probe. The defendants in the port of Beirut are hiding behind this crisis. On the other hand, Tel Aviv and Washington are spending money to destabilize Lebanon, and the US embassy is following the demands of the Israeli regime instead of the US interests. At present, the sanctions against Lebanon continue illegally, and if we put sanctions, instability, and insecurity together, it is clear that the Israeli-American camp with its Lebanese puppets, including the Phalangists, are doing this to block the government from doing its task. The US, actually, wants Lebanon be governed by its minions, or immersed in riots. The Phalangists play as the American infantry to this end.
Asked about how the Thursday attack will influence the developments, Mr Naeemi held: “The Thursday incident made the job of the new Lebanese government even easier, because the government now can easily prosecute the elements behind insecurity and chaos. The identity of the perpetrators behind violentization of the peaceful protests is clear to all. A majority of the destabilizing measures stem from anti-Hezbollah parties. The resistant movement and the March 8 Alliance, a coalition it leads, have repeatedly shown that they prefer calm and stability for the country. They called on their supporters to show self-restraint and asserted they will not be dragged into civil war. The pro-Western groups represented by the March 14 Alliance, which follow the American and Israeli agenda in Lebanon, are striving to ignite civil war in the country now that they do not hold control of the government. Turning the peaceful protests outside the justice palace into violence is part of the scenario by the Israeli and American-backed forces.”