The shock wave of the explosion in the port of Beirut in August 2020 continues to spread in Lebanon. More than 200 people were killed and some 6,500 injured when hundreds of tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate fertilizer, stored on docks for years, ignited for reasons still unclear. But tensions over responsibilities have increased further in recent weeks. Recently appointed judge Tarek Bitar has indicted and prosecuted senior political and security officials, including former prime minister Hassane Diab and former ministers, accused of criminal negligence. This appointment of Tarek Bitar appears to some Lebanese political parties as part of a political strategy aimed at incriminating in particular Hezbollah.
The latter reacted immediately and organized Thursday, in the district of Tayouneh, in Beirut, with the other Shiite organization, Amal, a demonstration to demand the resignation of the magistrate in charge of the investigation. Demonstration which escalated when snipers, on the roofs of buildings in surrounding Christian neighborhoods, fired on the crowd, killing seven people. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah accused Samir Geagea’s Lebanese Forces (FL) party of being behind the deadly incident. What the far-right Christian leader denied. He claimed that residents of the Christian quarter of Ain el-Remmaneh had “defended themselves” against “Hezbollah militiamen who tried to enter their homes”.
In Lebanon, nothing is trivial and the slightest incident can turn into a political disaster, memories of the civil war are still close. Especially since the main parties, denominational, if they did against bad luck good heart to finally constitute a government under the leadership of Najib Mikati after months of hesitation, are divided mainly on questions of regional positioning, which it is Syria, Iran or Israel.
In an attempt to thwart the ongoing maneuver and prevent his movement from being drawn into an embryo of civil war while preserving its status of “resistance”, Hassan Nasrallah warned yesterday during a televised address by a rare strength. “I am revealing this figure for the first time: we have 100,000 combatants, trained and armed,” he said. The real program of the Lebanese Forces party is civil war. They have no problem provoking events that lead to bloodshed… even if it leads to a full-scale military confrontation, that of a civil war. “And to warn:” This mine that we managed to defuse Thursday can explode again at any time and in any region. “
Legislative elections scheduled for March 2022
He also took care to recall that Hezbollah defended the Christian population in Syria, in particular in Maaloula, in the Bekaa and in the district of Hermel against the Salafist groups which, according to him, would have been supported by the Lebanese Forces of Geagea.
At the same time, anxious to preserve civil peace and not allow his opponents to jump at the chance, Nasrallah moderated his criticism of the investigation into the port explosion. He did not ask for the replacement of Tarek Bitar, as he did in his last speech on October 11. He confined himself to saying that the instruction was “selective” and that it “politically targets our allies and our friends”. A week ago, Hezbollah threatened to boycott the government if the judge was not removed from his post.
For Hassan Nasrallah to be forced to intervene in this way, it is proof that the tense situation could very well degenerate at the slightest incident. On social networks, divisions between communities are spreading as Parliament has just ceded the holding of legislative elections on March 27, 2022. Another indication of the existing unease, the families of the victims of the port explosion have pushed for the their spokesperson for having requested the dismissal of Judge Bitar.