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Lebanese Minister of Interior Bassam Mawlawi said that the clashes in the al-Tayouneh area started when snipers targeted the heads of the protesters, during a press conference following the extraordinary meeting of the Central Internal Security Council, in Beirut on Thursday.

“We did not have a security warning in this direction, on the contrary, those who were organising the demonstration assured us, and we were in contact with them two days ago, and this morning, that the demonstration is peaceful and must be peaceful,” the minister said.

He added “the problem started when the first shooting happened and you know by now that the shooting was sniping, because the casualties were hit in the head.”

Mawlawi stressed that “this situation is not in anyone’s interest, if the security situation loosens, it will be very difficult to control it afterwards. For 3 years now, we have not seen shooting live bullets in the heads. This is a very dangerous sign, and no one can bear the consequences."

At least five people have died in the gunfire that followed a protest calling for the removal of a judge involved in the 2020 Beirut explosion probe, according to the Interior Ministry.

The protest was organised by Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, who accuse Judge Tarek Bitar of being biased in his investigation into the 2020 port blasts, which killed more than 200 people.

SOUNDBITES:

SOT, Bassam Mawlawi, Lebanese Minister of Interior (Arabic): "The Central Internal Security Council met in this exceptional circumstance, after what you witnessed and what happened today before noon until now. I and the Central Security Council stressed the need to maintain civil peace. Civil peace between the Lebanese people and inside Lebanese territory is one of the most sacred issues. We stressed the need to take all measures to preserve civil peace, starting with controlling the military situation on the ground, and then taking all security measures, especially arrests."

SOT, Bassam Mawlawi, Lebanese Minister of Interior (Arabic): “We did not have a security warning in this direction, on the contrary, those who were organising the demonstration assured us, and we were in contact with them two days ago, and this morning, that the demonstration is peaceful and must be peaceful, and it includes an elite group of people, meaning lawyers, unions and the like. They must be in the demonstration in front of the court. The intelligence services, the information services, and the army or the internal security forces did not have any information about the issue. The problem started when the first shooting happened and you know by now that the shooting was sniping because the casualties were hit in the head. We did not know. And the intelligence services assured me that whether in the army, intelligence or information services, they had no knowledge. Quite the contrary, we have been following up on the matter for two days, and the situation was normal. Knowing that we are in Lebanon, since the revolution on October 17 and until today, the demonstrations have not stopped almost. The protesters used to throw stones. Today we were surprised by something very new, and something very dangerous, which is shooting at the heads, and this is not acceptable."

SOT, Bassam Mawlawi, Lebanese Minister of Interior (Arabic): “This situation is not in anyone’s interest, if the security situation loosens, it will be very difficult to control it afterwards. For 3 years now, we have not seen shooting live bullets in the heads. This is a very dangerous sign, and no one can bear the consequences."

SOT, Bassam Mawlawi, Lebanese Minister of Interior (Arabic): “We condemn any attack on any media team, but you know that what happened, from the attack, this is if there was an attack on a media team, and after what they reported to me, it happened as a result of the criminal act, the irresponsible act that occurred from shooting. This is what we were warning about. As a result, as soon as some party intervenes, and the investigation will reveal, if they start shooting live fire on the heads and snipers, there might be a reaction, and I have six martyrs, perhaps from the same party, this portends dangerous things that we did not expect and have not seen in the past few years."

#BeirutClashes #Beirut #Lebanon

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