After fighting in Beirut: Fear of a new civil war in Lebanon

Status: 10/14/2021 9:41 pm

At least six people were killed in violent firefights in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. Confessional divides are opening again in the country.

By Martin Durm, currently in Beirut

Something was in the air. It was already evident in the morning that this march of the Shiite Hezbollah in front of the Palace of Justice would not go well. Flags, slogans, clenched fists. Lots of military in the side streets. And then all of a sudden gunshots.

The Palace of Justice is located in the Christian part of the Lebanese capital. The fire will be opened from the alleys and gray blocks of the Christian Quarter. We take cover. Dozens of military vehicles block the driveways, heavy Humvees with machine guns planted on them. However, the soldiers of the Lebanese army do not intervene, but rather watch what is happening on the streets like interested onlookers.

On the surface, the conflict over a controversial political personality is escalating in Beirut. It is about the investigating judge Tarek Bitar, who is investigating the causes of the devastating explosion that devastated the port of Beirut and large parts of the Lebanese capital in August 2020. Bitar also questioned the role of Hezbollah.

Hezbollah demands the removal of examining magistrate

The problem is: the judge is a Christian and is also supported by Christian politicians and groups in Lebanon. Hezbollah, on the other hand, is a Shiite militia, the most powerful in this divided country. She doesn’t want to be put in any dock and demands Bitar’s removal. That is why their supporters moved to the Christian part of Beirut in front of the Palace of Justice.

“So far there has been one dead and several injured,” says Miriam Saleh, a reporter for Iranian television, with whom we hide behind a wall because a bazooka struck 200 meters in front of us. In the end, six people die and 23 are injured. The firefights last for hours and the harder the fighting before our eyes, the deeper one looks into the abyss that opens up here.

Tensions escalate in Lebanon

After the riots in Beirut, the Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati called for calm and for “no reason to allow himself to be drawn into a civil war”. “Lebanon is going through a difficult phase, not an easy one. We are like a patient in front of the emergency room,” he told Reuters. There are still many stages to complete recovery. Mikati announced a eaves party for Friday. President Michel Aoun said the perpetrators would be held accountable. The army arrested nine suspects.

Confessional rifts are breaking open

Under the surface, old sectarian rifts are breaking open in Lebanon: Christians against Muslims, political rivalries, state failure and an unprecedented economic crisis that robs people of all livelihoods. Everything has been there before in the Lebanese civil war, which lasted 15 years and left 150,000 dead. History doesn’t have to repeat itself, but it doesn’t let go of the Lebanese. “We are now particularly worried about the fear of a new civil war,” says Miriam.

Gun battles in Beirut fuel fears of civil war

Martin Durm, SWR, 14.10.2021 · 20:23