LEBANON: Clashes and Skirmishes Between Lebanese Political Parties

AL-NABA’A / BEIRUT, Lebanon – Decades of latent tensions in Lebanese society are slowly surfacing since the explosion on 4 August of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate in the Port of Beirut. Popular protests have erupted against the ruling elite and especially Hezbollah, and national and international pressure forced the government of Prime Minister Hasan Diab to resign. Popular demand is speaking out against corruption, negligence, and clientelism and vocal point of many protests is the “Party of God” or Hezbollah. Hezbollah is the Iran-backed state-within-a-state, highly armed and with control of large parts of the economy including parts of the Port of Beirut and the international airport of Beirut.

The port explosion has brought latent tensions along foreign affiliation, sect and clan to the open, creating an atmosphere of insecurity and bringing back dark memories of the Lebanese civil war. Although widespread violence has been avoided so far, it has sparked local and smaller violent skirmishes between forces aligned to political parties and sects.

Over the past two days, there has been an atmosphere of tension in the al-Naba’a area of Beirut between supporters of the Syriac Maronite Lebanese Forces party and Shi’ite Hezbollah. On Tuesday, unknown assailants ripped off and burned the image of Lebanese Forces party leader Samir Geagea at the entrance of al-Naba’a area in the Burj Hammoud neighbourhood. On Wednesday, unknown assaillants burned a banner in the area which marked the anniversary of Ashura.

However, tension were quickly addressed following contacts between the Lebanese Forces and Hezbollah leaders. The aforementioned Beirut area has more often experienced skirmishes between Hezbollah supporters and Lebanese Forces supporters.

Lubeya-South Lebanon In a related context, supporters of Hezbollah in the southern Lebanese town of Lubeya, on Thursday, raised Ashura images in an area controlled by the Amal political movement. The latter’s supporters removed it, resulting in machine-gun clashes between the two Shiite allies. One person was killed and four others injured and taken to hospital.