War Zone Beirut: What Next?

Published October 15th, 2021 - 07:34 GMT
Running from the snipers
Running from the snipers (twitter)

War zone Beirut. A reminder of the old bloody times. The past is catching up – the 1975-90 civil war when Lebanon was in conflict with itself. Sadly, it’s all coming back for everyone to see and watch.

The date of 14 October, 2021 will be remembered as a major skirmish in Lebanon’s sad and poignant history that resulted in more deaths, injuries and violence. While six people were dead and scores of injures it is becoming a stark reminder that nobody can fix Lebanon, except its political leaders.

But this doesn’t appear to be happening any time soon, in fact the exact opposite. The latest mayhem, a Hizbollah rally calling for the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar from the Beirut blast probe and which degenerated into a “bullet-and-missile” slanging match with the Lebanese Forces militia, is threatening to tear down the whole country.

Snipers, machine guns, pistols, rocket grenades were on the streets of Beirut being used openly by opposing sides resembling urban guerrilla warfare with activists unafraid to fire point blank at one another at window-panes in southern Beirut. The bulled-scared buildings were evidence of the deadly fire and its intensity.

The civilians, the school kids, women, men and the old and infirm were in between the protestors, the activists and the militiamen. As social media videos showed they were running for cover trying to be rescued. Children could be seen huddling in school corridors with their hands covering their heads and crying. On the street, men, women and children were seen being helped by Lebanese army soldiers being helped navigate from one street to another amidst the dangerous cross-fire. But the question is where to?

Can this be Lebanon 2021? Surely, the bloody pictures have passed. While presently the country is going through its worst economic crisis ever, the chaos, mayhem, bloodiness has been avoided, that is apparently till now with deep-seated feelings of anger.

Why the bitterness in the psyche? Hizbollah and its Amal allies feel they have been targeted by Judge Bitar, calling him “politically biased.” Why isn’t he going after other politicians in probing the Beirut blast, they bellow. This is an explosion that was the direct result of the unsafe storage of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate?

Why has Bitar issued an arrest warrant for Ali Hussein Khalil, an Amal MP and a former Minister of Finance? The Lebanese street is at a boiling point. They want to know who killed the 2018 people that died in the Beirut Port explosion of 4 August 2020 and resulted in the injuries of over 7000 people, not to mention the billions of dollars of untold destruction. But here is the law of opposites as well.

In the latest Beirut deadly riots is judge Bitar who remains at the center of the enthusing conflict that is not abating but seems to be turning out into a battle of wills. It shows how unhappy people are cramming civilians against the politicians who are unwilling to be questioned but fight till their last breath.

We are yet to see where will this end. Will Hizbollah insist that they will keep going back to the street for the judge’s removal and who might oppose them? This time, the activists in the Lebanese Forces have come to oppose them and its leader Samir Geagea said the problem with Lebanon is that they are too many guns on its streets. Will more join as Lebanon has a total of 18 sects within the mainly Muslim-Christian divide?

Maybe a sectarian angle is being poised here. Bitar is the second judge to take over from the investigation and has been in leading the probe from five months ago, taking from Fadi Sawan who was opposed by the same politicians Bitar is currently up against. However, many argue Bitar is making headways because the judiciary is now on his sides and is already issuing arrest warrants the first of which is Khalil.

Let us see how things work out. From the looks of is Lebanon is in for another rocky ride, one more it facing amongst the many others.

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