One person was killed and several were injured Sunday outside the Iranian Embassy in the Lebanese capital as protesters prepared to launch a demonstration over Hezbollah’s military intervention in neighboring Syria.
A Daily Star journalist on the scene saw men in black shirts with yellow ribbons around their arms shoving protesters away from the site as they exited buses some 200 meters from the embassy complex.
The protesters had barely time to raise their banners before they were beaten up, and several were injured with sticks, he said.
Several of the men in black shirts then opened fire in the air to disperse the demonstrators. They fired over two dozen shots.
The Lebanese Option Gathering had planned to demonstrate outside the embassy against Hezbollah’s military role in Syria.
In a statement, the Lebanese Army said a citizen was killed as a result of a fight outside the embassy.
“Upon the arrival of a convoy belonging to a political side in Bir Hassan for a protest outside the Iranian Embassy over the ongoing events in Syria, a fight broke out between members of the convoy and some citizens during which one of the individuals opened fire using a pistol that led to the serious wounding of a citizen who later died,” the military said.
The founder of the Lebanese Option Gathering, Ahmad al-Asaad, identified the fatality as Hashem Salman, who headed the party’s student committee.
The incident at the Iranian Embassy coincided with a sit-in at the Central Beirut District which was also held to protest Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian conflict.
Several hundred protesters gathered in Martyrs’ Square despite a heavy security presence to protest against Hezbollah fighters battling with President Bashar Assad’s forces against the rebels.
Demonstrators carried the Lebanese national flag and the flag of the National Liberal Party as well as the flag of the Syrian opposition. Individual protesters could also be seen waving the Islamist and Turkish flags.
Although none of the major parties mobilized their bases, many of the protestors said they had come with political groups, albeit as local or youth chapters.
"Hezbollah wants to drag us into a war that doesn't concern us," said Ali Ahmed, 19, a Future Movement supporter from al-Tarik al-Jadideh.
"I came to tell [Sayyid Hasan] Nasrallah...your battle is not in Syria, it's not in Qusair, it's not in Dariyah, your battle is in Palestine and South Lebanon, so don't bring a sectarian war to Syria," said Saad, a young Syrian from Aleppo who came with his family but declined to give his last name.
Rabieh Dandeshli, an official with Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya said he came to offer his personal support although the party was not officially participating in the demonstration.
"There is a silent majority in Lebanon who are against any Lebanese party interfering in Lebanon," he said, adding that Lebanese mobilization should be limited to assisting Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Both sides in the Syrian crisis have accused the other of relying on foreign intervention, with Qatar and other Gulf and Western states supporting the rebels, and Iran and Russia supporting Assad.
Hezbollah recently confirmed its own involvement in Syria’s two-year conflict, with Syrian government forces supported by Hezbollah fighters retaking the border town of Qusair on Wednesday after a three-week offensive against rebels there.