BEIRUT, Lebanon | Dead and wounded in the street, snipers, inhabitants holed up in their apartments pierced by bullets: the Lebanese capital Beirut on Thursday returned to the scenes of the civil war that it thought it had forgotten.
It all started with a demonstration of hundreds of supporters of the Shiite Muslim movements of Hezbollah and Amal in front of the courthouse to demand the replacement of judge Tareq Bitar, in charge of the investigation into the explosion at the port of Beirut there. a year.
Suddenly, sniper fire, the origin of which has not been determined, targeted a group of demonstrators, and armed men, some of whom were wearing Amal and Hezbollah armbands, present on the spot responded massively.
Very quickly, the streets were filled with armed supporters of the two Shiite parties in the district of Tayouné, very close to the area where the civil war had broken out on April 13, 1975.
Residents of this residential area found themselves trapped, between the shots of snipers ambushed on the roofs of buildings and the rockets launched by armed men in the middle of the street.
On local media, residents called for their evacuation, as parents rushed bullets to schools to pick up their children. Just like during the civil war.
Mariam Daher, 44, could not hold back her tears when she heard the shots and saw on television a man and a woman hiding behind a car in Tayouné.
“I remembered how, as a child, I hid in the hallway of the house” during the war, says this mother of two children, “how the armed men climbed on the roof of my building to shoot and set the neighborhood ablaze”.
In the district of Tayouné, transformed into a war zone despite the rapid deployment of the army, residents fled, dragging their children and taking some meager possessions as bullets pierced the facades of their buildings.
For Mariam Daher, the idea of a return to civil war is “terrifying”. “I can’t relive this experience. I want to leave and protect my children. “
Sahar, 41, says he feels “stuck in a time machine: these are the same figures of war who, today, control our future”.
She was referring to the political class, made up of former warlords who traded fatigues for costume at the end of the civil war in 1990, and who are today accused of all the ills of the country by a large part of the population. population.
As part of the investigation into the explosion at the port of Beirut which left more than 200 dead and plunged the country into the abyss, politicians refuse to be questioned even though the authorities blamed the tragedy on storage without precautions huge amounts of ammonium nitrate.
“With my friends who lived through the civil war, we are sad to see that the new generation relives the same experience as us,” adds Sahar, who did not want to give his name.
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The violence left at least six dead and around 30 injured.
Amal and Hezbollah accused members of the Lebanese Forces Christian party of being behind the first shots, but they denied.
During the Civil War there was fighting between Amal and the FL on the same front lines.
During the fighting on Thursday, large numbers of armed men wearing Amal and Hezbollah armbands were in the streets leading to the Tayouné roundabout. Most in civilian clothes and some masked, they fired in the direction of buildings on the roofs of which were posted snipers, according to an AFP photographer on the spot.
A chilling reminiscence of the civil war in which snipers terrorized residents of neighborhoods on the front line.
Elias, 48, deplores that “the civil war ended without being held accountable to those responsible”.
“What we are seeing today is indeed the result of impunity, and shows that the noise of guns is always louder. “
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