More than 30 people also wounded after gunfire erupts near protest rally in Lebanese capital.
Gunfire has killed at least five people and wounded more than 30 others in Beirut, according Lebanese Red Cross, as a rally organised by the Hezbollah and Amal movements to demand the dismissal of the lead investigator into last year’s port explosion turned violent.
Hundreds of participants gathered at the Beirut Justice Palace on Thursday calling for the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar, accusing him of political bias. Bursts of gunfire were heard coming from the nearby Tayyoune neighbourhood, scattering the angry protesters. The Lebanese army intervened, with the clashes continuing for hours.
“The army rushed to cordon off the area and deploy in its neighbourhoods and their entrance. Patrols started as did the search for the shooters to detain them,” the armed forces said in a statement.
The identities and affiliations of the shooters were not immediately clear.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati called for calm to be restored and warned against attempts to drag Lebanon into violence.
Here are the latest updates:
Beirut incident saw ‘shots in the head with live ammunition’
Following meeting with heads of security agencies, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said in a statement that “the security agencies knew about the gatherings that took place, but had no indicators that could develop into shots in the head with live ammunition.”
“Civil peace between the Lebanese is not to be played with.”
Mawlawi said an investigation is ongoing and all security measures will be taken.
Children trapped due to clashes
Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Beirut, said children were trapped at school due to the clashes.
“There is a street that divides these two political parties, long time enemies that are now shooting at each other. People are trapped at home, some children are still trapped at school. People are terrified,” she said.
“They don’t know what is happening in their city. About 200 metres (656 feet) from here there is a decades-long dividing line dating back to the days of the civil war (1975-1990).
“It is scenes like this that bring back a lot of memories for many Lebanese who have been traumatised by many bouts of violence but this has been one of the worst bouts of violence.”
Civil defence seeks to evacuate residents caught in crossfire
Al Jazeera’s Kareem Chehayeb, reporting from Beirut, said civil defence was trying to help evacuate residents caught in the crossfire.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati is currently meeting with the heads of security agencies as clashes continue, he added.