Beirut: At least six people were killed and over 30 injured as heavy gunfire broke out ahead of a demonstration in the Lebanese capital.
Authorities said protesters shot at were joining the demonstration called by Hezbollah to remove a judge leading a probe into the deadly August 2020 port blast.
Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi told a press conference that some victims had head injuries, suggesting snipers shot them. He called the events “a very dangerous sign.”
Prime Minister Najib Mikati urged a halt of clashes to avoid further escalations and sectarian strife.
President Michel Aoun also discussed the situation with Mikati, the defense and interior ministers, and the army chief.
The Lebanese Red Cross confirmed six deaths during the clashes.
There are multiple local reports of snipers shooting at demonstrators from the rooftops of buildings in the area and masked protesters returning fire from behind street barriers and garbage dumps.
In its statement on Thursday, Lebanon’s military has said it would shoot any armed person in the areas where the clashes occur and called for people to vacate the streets.
Eyewitnesses reported rocket fire and smoke billowing from inside buildings.
In a joint statement, Hezbollah and Amal called “for calm” among their supporters on the streets, adding that the attacks were designed to “drag the country into deliberate civil strife” and called on the military to identify and arrest the perpetrators.