Photo: Al-Manar TV

Nasrallah blames Lebanese Forces for inciting violence in televised speech

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah accused the Lebanese Forces (LF) of shooting at their party’s supporters and killing seven people during an armed conflict on Thursday in Beirut’s Tayouneh roundabout.

During a televised speech on Monday evening speech, Nasrallah stated that the Christian party and its leader Samir Geagea are trying to start a conflict in the country, warning the latter that he is attempting to start a civil war against a party that has 100,000 “armed, trained and experienced” fighters.

On Thursday, Hezbollah and its ally the Amal Movement organized a protest for the removal of Beirut Blast Investigator Tarek Bitar from the case. The protest soon turned into a five-hour shootout between unidentified snipers in buildings and protesters carrying RPGs, guns, automatic rifles, and hand grenades on the ground.

The armed conflict led to the death of seven individuals and injured around 30, stirring up memories of the civil war and adding to residents’ fears that the country might further spiral into its collapse.

“I advise the Lebanese Forces party to give up this idea of internal strife and civil war,” he said. “You are wrong 100 percent, your calculations are wrong. The region has never seen Hezbollah as strong as it is now.”

Geagea and the LF denied organizing an armed attack, blaming Hezbollah for inciting violence and sending supporters into the neighbourhood of Ain el-Remmaneh, where it claimed four residents were injured before shots were even fired. The LF leader said on Friday that neighborhood residents defended themselves against “Hezbollah militiamen who tried to enter their homes.”

Nasrallah confirmed that some supporters may have shouted provocative slogans within the neighborhood, stating it was “wrong,” but still reiterating that the conflict itself was to blame on the LF.

“The real agenda of the Lebanese Forces is civil war,” he said during the televised speech. He emphasized that he would not allow Hezbollah to be dragged into another armed conflict, and that the army was the guarantee against such a conflict in the country.

Nasrallah made sure to differentiate that Hezbollah is not an enemy of Lebanese Christians, but rather solely of the Lebanese Forces. He reassured that Hezbollah is protecting their rights within the country and is allied with the Free Patriotic Movement, the country’s largest Christian political party founded by President Aoun and currently headed by MP Gebran Bassil.

“The biggest threat to the Christian presence in Lebanon is the Lebanese Forces party and its head,” Nasrallah said.

He once again reiterated his objection to the Beirut Blast investigation, saying it lacks “objectivity” and the way it is being handled will not lead to “truth or justice.”

The Beirut Blast investigation has so far been thwarted by most members of the political ruling class, making little headway since it started in early August 2020.

For months, Nasrallah and his allies have accused Jude Bitar of politicizing the probe and called for his replacement. Multiple officials have blamed Bitar for Thursday’s clash, with Amal Movement saying Bitar is “igniting the wicks of tension” and once again calling for his removal.

Bitar has pursued senior political and security officials despite their multiple attempts to have him pulled from the case. However, none of the officials he has called for investigation have been Hezbollah officials—only allies.