Several people were killed and dozens more injured when gunfire erupted during a Beirut protest by the armed group Hezbollah and its allies against the chief judge investigating last year’s massive explosion in the city’s port.
At least six people were killed and another 25 wounded in the shooting, the Lebanese Red Cross told Al Jazeera.
The exchanges of fire between snipers, pistols, automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades were a dangerous escalation of tensions over the domestic investigation.
Shots rang out in the capital and ambulances rushed to the scene with sirens howling. Snipers fired from buildings. The bullets penetrated the windows of the apartments in the area. Four shells landed near a private French school, Freres de Furn el Chebbak, causing panic, said a security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
The students huddled in the central corridors with the windows open to avoid further effects, in scenes reminiscent of the 1975-90 civil war.
The protest in front of the Palace of Justice was called by the powerful Hezbollah group and its allies demanding the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar.
It was not immediately clear what triggered the shooting, but tensions were high along a former civil war front line between the Shiite and Christian areas.
In a statement, Prime Minister Najib Mikati called for calm and urged people “not to be drawn into civil strife.”