Beirut port blast: Day of mourning in Lebanon after bloodshed at protest

Ns News Online Desk:Ns News Online Desk: Funerals have been held in Lebanon for some of those killed in heavy fighting in the capital Beirut on Thursday. Seven were killed and dozens injured when gunfire broke out during a protest by Shia Muslim groups against the judge investigating last year’s huge blast at the city’s port.

Hezbollah, which organized the protest, said demonstrators were fired on by gunmen on rooftops.

They blamed a Christian faction, although the group denies the charge. Huge tension surrounds the inquiry into the port explosion that killed 219 people in August 2020. Swathes of the city were devastated by the blast, but no one has yet been held accountable.

Hezbollah and its allies have said the investigating judge is biased, but the victims’ families support his work.The protest began outside the Palace of Justice – the main court building – with hundreds of people arguing the investigation had become politicized and demanding the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar. It then quickly escalated.Heavy gunfire erupted in the streets as the crowd passed through a roundabout in the central Tayouneh-Badaro area.

Local residents had to flee their homes as men armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers – believed to have been members of Shia and Christian militias – exchanged fire in the streets.

At a nearby school, teachers instructed young children to lie face down on the ground with their hands on their heads, a witness told Reuters news agency. The clashes continued for several hours before calm was restored.

Hospital and military sources said some of those killed had been shot in the head. They included a woman who was hit by a stray bullet while inside her home.

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