(CNN) – At least five people were killed and 30 injured when a heavy shooting broke out at a demonstration in Beirut calling for the removal of a judge who was leading an investigation into the deadly port explosion in August 2020. The figure was confirmed by the Red Cross.
In addition, the Lebanese Interior Minister confirmed that the assailants fired B7-RPGs.
An emergency room doctor at the al-Sahel hospital in Beirut who did not want to be named told CNN that the hospital has received one death and nine injuries since the violence broke out.
Hundreds of supporters of Iran-backed Hezbollah and its main Shiite ally, Amal, were marching towards the Lebanese capital’s Palace of Justice on Thursday when protesters were fired on from an unknown location, forcing protesters and journalists to stand up. covered, according to a statement from the army and local stations.
There are several local reports of snipers shooting at protesters from the rooftops of buildings in the area. Local television also showed a masked protester firing a gun from behind a street barrier and black smoke billowing from one of the nearby buildings.
Local media showed live masked men with machine guns in the area and armored military vehicles deployed in the streets.
In a statement Thursday, the Lebanese army, which is widely deployed in the area, said it will shoot any armed person in the areas where the fighting is taking place and called for people to leave the streets.
Hezbollah has been a staunch opponent of Tariq Bitar, the popular judge who is leading the investigation into the Beirut explosion and has sought the prosecution of high-level officials. This week, the judge issued an arrest warrant for legislator Ali Hassan Khalil, a senior Amal official and former finance minister.
Bitar has also issued arrest warrants for MP Nouhad Machnouk, an ally of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and former Interior Minister.
Since his appointment in February, Bitar, who also chairs the Beirut criminal court, has sought out senior political and security officials for questioning in the investigation of the Beirut explosion. He is the second judicial investigator to lead the investigation. The first judge tasked with handling the investigation was removed from office after two former ministers charged in the investigation successfully filed a motion for his removal.
Several legal requests by prosecuted officials to remove Bitar have been unsuccessful.
During a televised speech on Monday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah rebuked the judge, accusing him of being “politicized.”