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Gunfire at Beirut protest kills at least 5, injures 30

Gunfire at Beirut protest kills at least 5, injures 30
Civilians run for cover amidst clashes Thursday in the area of Tayouneh, in the southern suburb of the capital Beirut. Photo by Jamal Eddine/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 14 (UPI) -- At least five people were killed and 30 injured when gunfire erupted Thursday at a protest in Beirut, Lebanon.

Shots were fired at protesters while Iran-backed Hezbollah supporters marched to the city's Palace of Justice to protest a judge who has sought to prosecute high-level officials in the deadly explosion at Beirut's port last year.

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"It's clear that those who fired at the protesters were organized armed groups who have been planning this attack since yesterday," a high-ranking Hezbollah official told CNN. "We will not fire back. They want to drag us into civil strife and we do not want to sow civil strife."

The Red Cross sent teams to the scene and found at least five people killed and 30 injured.

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Multiple local reports showed snipers shooting at protesters from rooftops. Masked protesters apparently fired back, local TV and social media videos showed. Lebanon's military said it will shoot any armed person in the clashes, urging people to clear the streets.

The Hezbollah supporters, representing Lebanon's strongest political party and militant group, along with the allied Amal movement, were protesting against Judge Tarek Bitar whom Lebanon's highest court had rejected a petition to replace an hour earlier.

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Hezbollah has opposed Bitar as he sought prosecution of high-level officials in the Aug. 4, 2020 port blast that killed more than 200, injured 6,000 and destroyed neighborhoods.

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Bitar issued an arrest warrant Tuesday against lawmaker Ali Hassan Khalil, a top Amal official and former finance minister, which prompted backlash.

A year later, the investigation into the explosion hadn't determined what specifically sparked the blast or who brought and hid the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored for seven years at the port before it ignited.

Senior officials took no action to protect people despite awareness explosives were stored in unsafe conditions, evidence showed, and rage has built up over lack of accountability.

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Meanwhile, Lebanon is suffering a severe financial and fuel crisis, with scarce food and medicine and electricity blackouts.

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