The 2021 Beirut clashes, also known as the 2021 Beirut massacre, Tayouneh Incident or Mini May 7,[2] occurred in the Tayouneh neighborhood of the Lebanese capital of Beirut on 14 October 2021 between Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, and unidentified gunmen allegedly associated with the Lebanese Forces, and the Lebanese Armed Forces, resulting in the death of seven people and injury of 32 others, and the arrest of nine by the Lebanese Armed Forces.[3] The violence erupted during a protest organized by Hezbollah and its allies against Tarek Bitar, the lead judge probing the 2020 explosion in the city's port, as they accuse him of being partisan.[4] The clashes took place at the Justice Palace, located in Eastern Beirut along the former civil war front line between the Christian and Muslim Shiite areas.[5] The clashes were the worst in the country since the 2008 Lebanon conflict.[5]

2021 Beirut clashes

Funeral of people killed in the clashes
Date14 October 2021
Tayouneh, Beirut, Lebanon
33°52′15″N 35°30′51″E / 33.870734°N 35.514197°E / 33.870734; 35.514197
Lebanese Forces (alleged) Lebanon Lebanese Armed Forces Amal Movement
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown 3 killed[1]
3 killed[1]
1 civilian woman killed
Total: 7 killed and 32 wounded

Background edit

During the Lebanese Civil War of 1975–1990, parties and militias formed along religious, ideological, and ethnic lines. Lebanon's capital Beirut was divided, as Sunni and Shia Muslim, Palestinian, and Christian factions fought for control.[6] Among the groups which emerged during this period were the Lebanese Forces, Hezbollah, and Amal Movement.[7] The Lebanese Forces originated as a militia which united various right-wing Christian parties,[8] while Hezbollah and Amal were organized as Shia militant groups that were opposed to the Christian factions. Historically, Hezbollah and Amal struggled for dominance within the Lebanese Shia community, with Hezbollah eventually becoming the predominant faction.[9] Various foreign countries intervened in the civil war, most prominently Israel and Syria, further muddling allegiances and worsening violent factionalism.[10]

Following the civil war, armed groups like the Lebanese Forces, Amal, and Hezbollah transformed into political parties, yet continued to field paramilitary wings.[11] Hezbollah remained particularly committed to its armed forces which grew into a medium-sized army.[12] In the 2000s, Lebanon's political scene divided into two main blocs which formed in accordance to parties' stance regarding Syria's influence on the country. The March 14 Alliance, which includes the Lebanese Forces, is anti-Syrian, whereas the pro-Syrian March 8 Alliance is backed by Hezbollah and Amal.[13]

Prelude edit

Lebanon had been in a state of financial crisis since 2019, and the situation gradually worsened with the COVID-19 recession and the explosion in the port of Beirut. In August 2021, a fuel tanker explosion in Akkar District killed dozens of people.[14] During autumn of 2021, the Lebanese energy market collapsed upon fuel shortages and on 9 October 2021, the country plunged into a 24-hour national blackout, as power plants ran out of fuel.[15] The leaders of both the Amal Movement and Hezbollah, Nabih Berri and Hassan Nasrallah, have called for an end to the investigation into the explosion by Tarek Bitar, as they accuse him of being partisan.[16] Bitar is characterized as having no party bias or political affiliation.[17][18]

Incident edit

On 14 October 2021, protests were held in the Tayouneh neighborhood of Beirut by supporters of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement; several of the demonstrators were armed. They were calling for the removal of Tarek Bitar, the judge appointed to investigate the Beirut port explosion.[1][19][20] At one point, the protesters entered the Christian neighbourhood of Ain el Remmeneh. The demonstrators were shot at by snipers from nearby buildings, though the latter's identity was unclear.[21][22][23][24] The attackers even used rocket-propelled grenades, and also attacked Lebanese Armed Forces soldiers.[25] Hezbollah claimed the snipers were Lebanese Forces supporters, though this is unconfirmed.[22][1][26] Later on, a video surfaced showing a Lebanese Army soldier shooting at the demonstrators.[24]

Fighting consequently erupted in Beirut, as Hezbollah militants shot assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, including at the buildings where the snipers were allegedly located.[21][22][23] Four projectiles fell near a private French school, Freres of Furn el Chebbak, causing a panic.[21] The Lebanese Army was one of the first to evacuate people from the area.[27] Lebanese Armed Forces patrols, including special forces, tried to restore order; doing so, they clashed with gunmen and used live ammunition.[25]

Hezbollah-affiliated activists have claimed, but not verified, that one of the snipers was Shukri Abu Saab, an employee of the US embassy in Beirut.[28] A Syrian national was among those arrested and detained in connection with the sniper and militant attacks.[29]

Aftermath edit

Seven people were killed overall in the incident.[30][5] The Amal Movement and Hezbollah lost three dead militants each; one of the Hezbollah casualties was a participant in the Syrian Civil War.[1] In addition, a woman was killed inside her home.[30][5] Overall, 32 people were injured.[31] The clash only escalated fears of an imminent collapse of Lebanon and a return to the days of the Lebanese Civil War.[32] The Lebanese Army consequently raided several locations in Beirut, arresting nine individuals connected to the parties involved in the clash. President Michel Aoun vowed to "bring the perpetrators to justice".[30][22] The Lebanese Armed Forces has opened an investigation into the footage of a soldier opening fire at the demonstrators.[24]

The clashes caused great trauma among Lebanese, who did not wish to return to the days of the Lebanese Civil War.[33] Banks, schools, offices and shops closed in many places as funerals of those killed in the clashes were held.[34]

On 4 August 2023,Protesters in Beirut mark the third anniversary of the massive non-nuclear explosion, demanding justice for over 220 people killed and 6,500 injured. The investigation remains stalled due to political interference, leaving survivors still seeking answers.[35]

Reactions edit

Domestic edit

President Michel Aoun expressed in a televised address that those responsible for the violence would be held accountable, he stated that “I have made contacts with the relevant parties today to address what happened and most importantly, to make sure that it never happens again." He compared the clashes to the Lebanese Civil War, stating “It took us back to the days that we said we would never forget and never repeat."[36][30]

Cars with mounted guns and flags of the Shia Amal and Hezbollah were driving throughout the Beqaa valley in an apparent show of strength for the two movements.[16] Hezbollah went on the claim that the Lebanese Forces had organized the incident with support by the United States to destabilize Lebanon. Lebanese Forces official Imad Wakim responded by stating that the clash was not the result of ethnic or party rivalries, but rather a "confrontation between Hezbollah and the remaining free Lebanese of all sects, in order to preserve what remains of the state institutions and to protect them from Hezbollah's dominance."[1] In a televised response to the event, Nasrallah insisted that he has up to 100,000 militants ready to deploy at any time.[37]

Prime Minister Najib Mikati stated that Lebanon would hold a national day of mourning for those killed in the attacks.[38] He later told reporters that the clashes would be a setback for his government, but would be overcome, stating that Lebanon "is going through a difficult phase, not an easy one. We are like a patient in front of the emergency room.”[30]

International edit

  •   US State Department spokesman Ned Price urged the de-escalation of tensions between political parties.[30] Similarly, United States Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who had just visited Beirut that day, called the scene "unacceptable".[3]
  •   The Kuwaiti Ministry Of Foreign Affairs encouraged Kuwaitis in Lebanon to return to Kuwait, and called on them to "exercise caution" and to "stay away from sites of gatherings and security disturbances in some areas and to stay in their residences".[30]
  •   French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian expressed "deep concern", claiming that "France notes its deep concern over recent obstacles to the smooth unfolding of the investigation into the explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, and the violence that has taken place in that regard", and that the Lebanese judiciary should be able to work closely on the investigation.[39]

Intergovernmental organizations edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f Joe Truzman (15 October 2021). "Three members of Hezbollah Killed in Beirut Clashes". Long War Journal. Retrieved 18 October 2021.
  2. ^ "Sayyed Nasrallah: Samir Geagea's remarks on "Mini May 7 events" represent a clear claim of responsibility of the massacre in Tayouneh". 18 October 2021. Retrieved 9 June 2022.
  3. ^ a b Mostafa, Salem; Qiblawi, Tamara (14 October 2021). "Beirut's worst street violence in more than a decade kills at least 6". CNN.
  4. ^ Mroue, Bassem (16 July 2021). "Riots in Lebanon as West calls for quick Cabinet formation". Associated Press.
  5. ^ a b c d Karam, Zeina; El Deeb, Sarah (14 October 2021). "5 killed in Beirut during protest over judge in blast probe". Associated Press. Retrieved 14 October 2021.
  6. ^ Salamey (2014), pp. 41–42.
  7. ^ Salamey (2014), pp. 44–45.
  8. ^ Salamey (2014), p. 44.
  9. ^ Salamey (2014), p. 45.
  10. ^ Salamey (2014), pp. 47–48.
  11. ^ Salamey (2014), pp. 64–65, 121–123.
  12. ^ "Hezbollah: Not a terror group but a midsized army". Haaretz. August 2016.
  13. ^ Salamey (2014), pp. 64–65.
  14. ^ Agencies (2021-08-15). "At least 20 killed and 79 injured in fuel tank explosion in Lebanon". the Guardian. Retrieved 2021-10-15.
  15. ^ "Power returns to Lebanon after 24-hour blackout". BBC News. 2021-10-10. Retrieved 2021-10-14.
  16. ^ a b Chulov, Martin (2021-10-14). "Six dead as Beirut gripped by worst street violence in 13 years". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2021-10-14. Retrieved 2021-10-16.
  17. ^ "Judge Tarek Bitar appointed as new lead investigator in Beirut blast probe | News , Lebanon News | THE DAILY STAR". Archived from the original on 2021-02-21. Retrieved 2021-07-14.
  18. ^ "Who is Tarek Bitar? Judge heading probe into deadly Beirut Port blast". Retrieved 2021-10-16.
  19. ^ Abi-Nassif, Christophe (15 October 2021). "Making sense of the Beirut clashes". Middle East Institute. Archived from the original on 2021-10-15.
  20. ^ El Deeb, Sarah (19 October 2021). "Lebanon buries 7 killed amid street battles over port probe". WAPO. Archived from the original on 2021-10-15.
  21. ^ a b c "Gunfire Breaks Out in Beirut During Protest of Judge; 6 Dead | AP News | 14. 10.2021". USNEWS. Retrieved 2021-10-19.
  22. ^ a b c d Economic Collapse, Energy Crisis, Now Fear of Civil War In Lebanon, 10/14/21 Newsweek
  23. ^ a b Vohra, Anchal. "Sectarian Violence is Lebanese Elites Comfort Zone.| FP | 14.10.2021". foreignpolicy. Retrieved 2021-10-17.
  24. ^ a b c "Lebanese army to investigate soldier seen shooting at protesters in Beirut last week| PD | 18.10.2021". PD. Retrieved 2021-10-18.
  25. ^ a b "Lebanon: Hezbollah, Lebanese Forces trade blame over deadly protests". DW. 14 October 2021. Retrieved 21 October 2021.
  26. ^ "Lebanese Army arrests nine people after Beirut violence | AJ | 14. 10.2021". AJ. Retrieved 2021-10-19.
  27. ^ Wiedeking, Lara (15 October 2021). "Lebanon is feared to spiral into violence after sectarian clashes in Beirut". Deutsche Welle.
  28. ^ Latest: Senior Journalist identifies one of Beirut snipers as employee of US embassy Archived 2021-10-17 at the Wayback Machine, NBS Webdesk
  29. ^ "Day of mourning in Lebanon after deadly clashes | HDN | 15. 10.2021". HDN. Retrieved 2021-10-19.
  30. ^ a b c d e f g Varshalomidze, Tamila; Ibrahim, Arwa (16 October 2021). "Gunfire kills several people near Beirut protest: Live news". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 14 October 2021.
  31. ^ Joffre, Tzvi (15 October 2021). "Seven killed, 32 injured in firefight in the heart of Beirut". The Jerusalem Post.
  32. ^ Hubbard, Ben; Santora, Marc (14 October 2021). "Deadly Clashes in Beirut Escalate Fears Over Lebanon's Dysfunction". The New York Times.
  33. ^ Chehayeb, Kareem (15 October 2021). "Beirut armed clashes rattle distressed residents". Al Jazeera.
  34. ^ Westfall, Sammy (15 October 2021). "What is happening in Beirut?". The Washington Post.
  35. ^ "Hundreds protest as Lebanon marks 3 years since Beirut blast". The Jordan Times. 2023-06-07. Retrieved 2023-08-15.
  36. ^ "Lebanon president says people behind violence will be held accountable". The Mighty 790 KFGO | KFGO. Retrieved 2021-10-15.
  37. ^ El Deeb, Sarah (18 October 2021). "Hezbollah leader declares his group has 100,000 fighters". AP News. Archived from the original on 2021-10-18.
  38. ^ "Lebanon to hold day of public mourning on Friday, PM says". National Post. 2021-10-14. Retrieved 2021-10-15.
  39. ^ Iskandarani, Aya (15 October 2021). "Clashes over Beirut blast investigation spark international concern". The National News.
  40. ^ "U.N. chief calls for halt to Lebanon violence". Retrieved 2021-10-15.

Works cited edit