Salem Radio Network News Thursday, January 20, 2022


Lebanon’s Amal movement says violence aimed to reignite internal strife

By Maha El Dahan

BEIRUT (Reuters) -Lebanon’s Shi’ite Amal movement said on Monday that last week’s street violence in Beirut in which seven Shi’ite Muslims were shot dead aimed to reignite internal strife and threaten peace.

The seven were killed on Thursday as crowds headed for a demonstration called by Amal and its Iranian-backed ally Hezbollah group in bloodshed that stirred memories of the 1975-1990 civil war.

“What happened showed the Lebanese people the truth behind what these groups are doing in terms of trying to ignite internal strife and national division and threaten civic peace and pushing the Lebanese back to the era of civil wars,” Amal said in a statement.

The incident marked the worst street violence in over a decade and added to fears for the stability of a country that is awash with weapons and suffering an economic meltdown.

Amal, which is led by Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri, one of the most powerful political figures in the country, urged the authorities to arrest all those responsible.

Hezbollah blamed the Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) party for the deaths, an accusation that LF head Samir Geagea denied. The LF condemned Thursday’s events and blamed the violence on Hezbollah’s “incitement” against Tarek Bitar, the lead investigator in a probe into last year’s blast at Beirut port.

The LF blames the other side for provoking trouble by sending supporters into the Christian neighbourhood of Ain al-Remmaneh where it says four residents were wounded before a shot was fired.

Amal and Hezbollah had called the demonstration to protest against Bitar.

The inquiry into the Aug. 4, 2020 explosion, which killed more than 200 people and devastated swathes of Beirut, has made little headway amid pushback from political factions.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who is expected to deliver his first speech since the violence on Monday night, has said Bitar is not objective.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati told the al Modon newspaper in an interview on Monday that the government would not meet unless an agreement or settlement is reached concerning the blast probe.

“The security situation is stable and there is no concern but politically I will not call for a cabinet meeting before finding a solution to the problem,” Mikati said.

Mikati also said a resignation was not on the table at the moment. “The country can’t be left in circumstances like this.”

Tensions over the probe had spilt over into cabinet with ministers aligned to the politicians the judge was seeking to question demanding his removal in a stormy session and another session postponed last week until the issue is resolved. nL1N2R90OU

(Additional reporting by Lilian Wagdy in Cairo; writing by Michael Georgy; editing by Philippa Fletcher and Angus MacSwan)


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