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Funerals Held After Deadly Gunfire Shatters Beirut Protest


Lebanese army soldiers on their armored vehicle stand guard in Beirut, Oct. 15, 2021, at the site where deadly clashes erupted the previous day.

Lebanon militant group Hezbollah reportedly said on Friday it would not let an outbreak of violence lure it into civil war.

"We will not be dragged into civil war but at the same time we will not let the blood of our martyrs be in vain," said Hezbollah leader Hashem Safieddine during a speech at the funeral of three members, who were killed in street violence, according to Reuters.

Seven people were killed and 20 others were wounded Thursday as gunfire erupted in Lebanon’s capital amid protests against a judge investigating last year’s deadly port blast. It was the deadliest outbreak in the country in more than a decade.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati called for calm to be restored and urged people "not to be dragged into civil strife." The army warned it would open fire against anyone shooting live rounds.

It was not immediately clear what triggered Thursday’s violence.

Supporters of the militant group Hezbollah and its allies had gathered near the Palace of Justice in Beirut to rally against Judge Tarek Bitar. The groups have demanded his removal, accusing him of conducting a politicized investigation singling out certain officials.

Hezbollah and the allied Shiite Amal Movement blamed the attack on the Lebanese Forces (LF), a Christian political party.

The LF denied involvement and said Hezbollah "incitement" against the judge led to the violence.

Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said all the people killed were from one side, suggesting they were Shiites.

In a statement, U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka stressed the need for Lebanon’s leaders to prioritize the interests of its citizens amid the unrest.

"Lifting Lebanon out of its current crisis and moving forward on reforms requires the efficient functioning of the state’s legislative, executive and judicial institutions" Wronecka said.

"Now is the time for all sides to support judicial independence in the interest of the people," she added.

The August 2020 explosion involving improperly stored ammonium nitrate at a Beirut port warehouse killed more than 200 people and injured thousands more while destroying parts of surrounding neighborhoods.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, AFP and Reuters.

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