Overnight clashes in Lebanon injure dozens as tensions rise

Tempers are rising as the political deadlock for forming a new Lebanese government drags on. (AFP)
Updated 28 November 2019

Overnight clashes in Lebanon injure dozens as tensions rise

  • Army intervenes to separate opposing sides amid fears of another civil war

BEIRUT: Fears are spreading of another Lebanese civil war breaking out right where the previous one erupted 44 years ago, on the demarcation line between the towns of Ain Al-Remaneh and Chiyah.

On Tuesday, tens of men from Chiyah, which supports Hezbollah and the Amal Movement — both Shiite parties — entered Ain Al-Remaneh on motorcycles. They raised the flags of the two parties and chanted “Shiites.”

They were confronted by the people of Ain Al-Remaneh, which is dominated by supporters of the Lebanese Forces, a Christian party. Stone-throwing clashes ensued, and the Lebanese Army intervened to separate the two sides.

“Suddenly, out of nowhere, we started hearing yelling and insults in the street,” Ain Al-Remaneh resident Adele told Arab News.

“This area is no longer how it was during the civil war. Muslims and Christians now live together, and no one wants the war to re-emerge, so why are they taking us back to the past?”

On Tuesday in Bikfaya, the hometown of the Christian Kataeb Party, a convoy from the largely Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) headed to the house of former President Amine Gemayel, whose son Sami Gemayel now leads the Kataeb Party.

Its supporters blocked the road and prevented the convoy from reaching the house. The two sides clashed, and the army intervened.

FPM activists said the convoy was a response to protesters gathering outside the house of the party’s leader Gebran Bassil in Rabieh, and insulting him and his father-in-law, Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

A confrontation also took place on Tuesday in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city. “Rumors started circulating on WhatsApp about people being shot, and at the same time some men started attacking private properties in the city, breaking shops’ facades and burning ATMs,” said an activist who has been taking part in ongoing protests.

“Some of them also besieged an FPM office … Since the beginning of our movement, such actions had never taken place.”

The army, which intervened, said Molotov cocktails and stones were thrown at soldiers, 33 of whom were injured.

It added that a hand grenade that was thrown at them did not explode, and that 16 people involved in the incidents were arrested and motorcycles were seized.

“As our soldiers were attempting to restore security and calm in the Chiyah-Ain Al-Remaneh area, 10 of them were injured due to stone-throwing incidents, and in Bikfaya eight others were also injured,” the army command said. Clashes had taken place the previous day in the cities of Beirut, Tyre and Baalbek.

Development expert Dr. Nasser Yassin told Arab News: “There’s a significant mechanism working hard to scare people and prevent them from joining protesters in the streets, by spreading rumors and using violence, destruction and vandalism.”

He said: “They think people will be scared, but their tactics aren’t working because there’s a large group of people who decided to join the protests after watching protesters being attacked.”

He added: “They might succeed in scaring people, but even if they manage to create panic, fear of the ruling authority is broken, and there’s no going back to before Oct. 17, when the protests broke out. They think … they’ll be able to silence the revolution, but it’s continuing.”

The protest movement had stopped blocking roads since the beginning of the week, resorting instead to gathering outside the Central Bank in Beirut to demonstrate against a banking policy that is blamed for leading to the country’s economic collapse.

On Wednesday morning, activists entered some banks as customers and started reciting statements criticizing banks’ performance and profits.

Omani Foreign Minister begins Tehran visit

Updated 21 January 2020

Omani Foreign Minister begins Tehran visit

  • The visit comes amid escalated tensions in the region

DUBAI: Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi began his Tehran visit on Tuesday, Al-Arabiya television news channel reported.

The visit comes amid escalated tensions and economic uncertainties in the region that began at the start of 2020.

On Jan. 3 the United States killed Iran’s military commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani in an air strike attack in Iraq.

Following Soleimani’s death, US President Donald Trump promised to target 52 Iranian sites if Iran retaliated.

In response, Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles in the early hours of Jan. 8.

Oman maintains friendly ties with both the United States and Iran and has previously been a go-between for the two countries, which severed diplomatic relations after the 1979 Iranian revolution.