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While at least six people were shot dead during a rally on Thursday in Beirut to demand the relinquishment of Judge Tarek Bitar, in charge of the investigation into the explosion in the port, Hezbollah points to the responsibility of the Lebanese Forces. This murderous episode revives the specter of community violence that agitated Lebanon during the civil war (1975-1990).
Shots of unknown origin targeted, Thursday, August 14, a demonstration organized by Hezbollah and the Amal movement against Judge Tarek Bitar, in charge of the investigation into the explosions at the port of Beirut. The violence left six people dead in the Lebanese capital, according to Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi, and 30 injured, says the Red Cross.
For several hours, the Tayouneh neighborhood turned into a war zone and the Lebanese army finally deployed massively in the area, threatening to shoot anyone who took to the streets.
“Hezbollah accuses the Christian militias (the Lebanese Forces, which denies the accusations of the Shiite movement, Editor’s note) of being responsible for these shootings against the demonstrators. The problem, for the moment, is that there is no proof of anything “, explains Bruno Daroux, international columnist for France 24.” All we know is that it all started from the famous Tayouneh district, on the border between Christian and Shiite areas, while the Pro-Amal and pro-Hezbollah protesters were heading to the Beirut courthouse to demand the final relinquishment of Judge Tarek Bitar. “
The rally called for by the Shiite movements on Thursday morning followed the decision of the Court of Cassation to reject the complaints of former ministers against Tarek Bitar, allowing it to resume its investigations into the case of explosions at the port of Beirut.
Clashes in Beirut on the sidelines of a demonstration: Hezbollah wants to “get rid of judge Bitar”
On Tuesday, the Lebanese judge issued an arrest warrant against MP and former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil, a member of the Shiite Amal movement, an ally of Hezbollah. But he was immediately forced to suspend his investigation after new complaints filed by Ali Hassan Khalil and another deputy and ex-minister of Amal, Ghazi Zaayter, whom he wished to question.
>> Explosions at the port of Beirut: who wants the skin of judge Tarek Bitar?
“It is reminiscent of the civil war in Lebanon”
At the end of September, in a letter to the Attorney General at the Court of Cassation, Tarek Bitar had confirmed having received threats.
“Hezbollah, for three to four months already, threatens in a thinly veiled and sometimes explicit way Judge Bitar to rush to the rescue of some of his allies, but this seems today to take much more dramatic proportions, since this could lead to a real escalation of violence in the streets of Beirut “, explains to the antenna of France 24 Karim Émile Bitar, director of research at the Institute of international and strategic relations (Iris).
According to the political analyst, the events of Thursday “are reminiscent of the civil war of the 1980s in Lebanon”. And he continues: “It is truly dangerous and it is a coup against the judicial system that Hezbollah and its allies of the Amal movement are carrying out, even though the judge had followed the procedures perfectly. Tarek Bitar has a reputation for integrity (…). We are in the presence of an oligarchy of political parties which clings to power at all costs. They did not want an international investigation, they seem not to want nor that the local judge can complete his investigation. “
This violence awakens all the more the specter of the Eighties, during which the Lebanese Forces and the Hezbollah were two major actors of the conflict, that it took place in Tayouneh, where passed the old “Green Line”, which separated the. Shiite and Christian neighborhoods.
“We wonder how this will end”
In addition, the demonstration took place at the same place where the relatives of the victims of the explosions regularly gather to demand that Judge Bitar’s investigation proceed.
“Judge Bitar is a tenuous hope, it is difficult in this country to move forward in the field of justice”, explains to the France 24 antenna Rony Mecattaf, who survived the explosions of August 4, 2020. “We do not do not know if overnight this investigation will actually be successful or even if the judge will be allowed to conduct even the beginning of an investigation. More than a year later, we still do not know much about it. . “
This Lebanese citizen psychotherapist is worried about the murderous episode that hit Beirut on Thursday. “I feel a lot of sadness”, he explains. “I have seen people in my office parade in the midst of the anguish of the future, and there, it is as if this fear has materialized. (…) It’s really scary and we wonder how it will end. “
France, which has been heavily involved in allowing the formation of a government and the reconstruction of the country, whose economy is on the verge of bankruptcy, called for “appeasement”.
“The Lebanese justice must be able to work in an independent and impartial manner within the framework of this investigation, without hindrance and with the full support of the Lebanese authorities”, added Anne-Claire Legendre, spokesperson for the Quai d’Orsay. “The Lebanese are waiting for all the light to be shed on the explosion in the port. They have a right to the truth.”
Karim Émile Bitar recalls that these events come after a contraction of the GDP of Lebanon “of nearly 40%” and “a generalized impoverishment of the Lebanese population”. And to conclude: “If you add to that the communitarian resentments on which the extremists play, it gives an explosive cocktail and makes Lebanon could be at the dawn of a new particularly dark era.”
With AFP and Reuters