Lebanon on the Verge of a New Civil War

Yossi Schwartz, ISL the RCIT section in Israel/Occupied Palestine, 15.10.2021

“At least six people have been killed and dozens of others wounded when gunfire erupted as Hezbollah supporters gathered to protest, and demand the removal of Tarek Bitar the Catholic judge from the north of Lebanon from the Beirut Port explosion probe, accusing him of bias. Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan accused the judge of “politically targeting” officials in his investigation.” [1]

“On 4 August 2020 a massive explosion at Beirut’s port killed at least 218 people, wounded 7,000 others and devastated swathes of the city. A fire led to the detonation of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a combustible chemical, that had been stored unsafely in a warehouse for almost six years.” [2]

Since then, the judicial investigation has not been able to discover who the officials responsible for the disaster are.

“The evidence to date raises questions regarding whether the ammonium nitrate was intended for Mozambique, as the Rhesus’s shipping documents stated, or whether Beirut was the intended destination. The evidence currently available also indicates that multiple Lebanese authorities were, at a minimum, criminally negligent under Lebanese law in their handling of the cargo, creating an unreasonable risk to life, Human Rights Watch said.” [3]

“Officials within the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, which oversees the port, were warned about the danger, yet failed to correctly communicate it to the judiciary or to adequately investigate the potentially explosive and combustible nature of the ship’s cargo, and the danger it posed. They then knowingly stored the ammonium nitrate alongside other flammable or explosive materials for nearly six years in a poorly secured and poorly ventilated hangar in the middle of a densely populated commercial and residential area, contravening international ammonium nitrate safe storage and handling guidance. They also reportedly failed to adequately supervise the repair work undertaken on hangar 12 that may have triggered the explosion on August 4, 2020.” [4]

Between 21 January 2020 – 10 August 2020, Michel Najjar was a member of the Marada Movement and the Greek Orthodox was the Minister of Public Works and Transport. The Marada movement was one of the Maronite militias that participated in the 1975 civil war in Lebanon. The Maronite militias were right wing forces and allies of Israel. He obtained a PhD in civil engineering in the US, and after he returned to Lebanon, he worked at Balamand University as a lecturer and has been the vice president for academic and administrative affairs at the American University of Technology in Lebanon.

You don’t have to be a genius to understand that the responsibility for the disaster was the government, the security chiefs and the Minister for Public Works and Transport – Michel Najjar.

Yet the judge in charge of the investigation Tarek Bitar “has for months tried to question ex-ministers Ali Hasan Khalil, Ghazi Zeiter, Nouhad Machnouk, Youssef Finianos, as well as former Prime Minister Hasan Diab. Khalil and Zeiter belong to the Amal Movement, a Shia party led by Speaker Nabih Berri and closely allied to Hezbollah. The former PM former Prime Minister Hasan Diab is a Sunni Muslim.

The judge has also asked to summon General Security chief Major-General Abbas Ibrahim and State Security head, Major-General Tony Saliba. However, the interior ministry and Higher Defense Council did not grant him permission to do so”.

The identities and affiliations of the shooters were not immediately clear. The army was deployed heavily to the area and sent troops to search for the gunmen. In a joint statement, Hezbollah and its ally Amal accused the Christian Lebanese Forces party of being behind the shooting. “Groups from the Lebanese Forces party dispersed on building rooftops and directly sniped with intent to kill,” the statement read. They called on their supporters to remain calm and “not be drawn to malicious discord”.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said in a statement that he condemned Thursday’s clashes, but he did not respond to accusations by Hezbollah and Amal. He simply said that “the main reason for these events are loose and widespread weapons that are a threat to citizens anywhere at any time.”

The violence erupted amid soaring tensions over the probe into the devastating explosion at Beirut’s port on August 4, 2020. The protesters gathered in the Lebanese capital two days after Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah’s most scathing criticism of Bitar to date. Nasrallah accused the judge of “politically targeting” officials in his investigation.” [5]

If it is true and the Christian Lebanese Forces are behind the shooting, in a civil war between Hezbollah and the right-wing Christian Lebanese Forces, the interest of the international working class is to side militarily with Hezbollah without giving it any political support.


[1] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/10/14/one-killed-beirut-hezbollah-protest

[2] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-58705687

[3] https://www.hrw.org/video-photos/interactive/2021/08/02/lebanon-evidence-implicates-officials-beirut-blast-targeted

[4] Ibid

[5] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/10/14/one-killed-beirut-hezbollah-protest

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