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Sectarian clash erupts
south of Beirut

Future Movement partisans and members of the Hezbollah-affiliated Resistance Brigades fought in Saadiyat.

Saadiyat. (Twitter)

BEIRUT – An armed fight erupted in the early hours Wednesday in a coastal town south of Beirut between supporters of the Future Movement and members of the Hezbollah-affiliated Resistance Brigades.

 

Conflicting reports have emerged over the cause of the violence, with a number of outlets saying the clashes started when Future Movement partisans attacked Resistance Brigade members as they exited a Shiite prayer site in Saadiyat, a majority Sunni-populated area that has witnessed prior sectarian tension.

 

Lebanon’s state National News Agency said that the clash resulted in a “number of injuries,” while local media outlets said seven had been injured, one of them critically, in the gunfight south of the capital Beirut.

 

“A cautious calm has settled over Saadiyat following the clashes that occurred in the dawn hours Wednesday between members of the Future Movement and Resistance Brigades,” the NNA added.

 

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s Armed Forces announced that an altercation had taken place in the Saadiyat locality between “people belonging to party actors,” without specifying their affiliation.


It added that the altercation had “developed in to an exchange of gunfire with light military weapons, leading to a number of injuries.”

 

“Subsequently, the LAF deployed in the area, intervened and imposed a security cordon around the site of the clash,” the army added.

 

“The situation was brought back to normality and LAF forces continue to carry out raid operations in search of people who were involved in the incident.”

 

“An LAF member was wounded lightly during the mission.”

 

Sectarian overtones

 

The fight between the supporters of the political rivals reportedly has sectarian overtones, with a number of local outlets pinpointing a Shiite prayer site as the focal point of the attack.

 

“Information indicates that the altercation was caused by Future Movement supporters attacking a Resistance Brigades prayer site,” Al-Jadeed television reported.

 

An-Nahar, in turn, said that the fight was sparked by the “opening of a Shiite prayer site,” without elaborating further.

 

The online Lebanon Files news outlet echoed these accounts, reporting that “the altercation [in] Saadiyat broke out because of a celebration at a Shiite prayer site that was opened in the Sunni-majority area.”

 

However, MTV offered a differing account of the incident, with its correspondent reporting that the clash had started after Resistance Brigades members opened fire on a café “owned by a Future Movement official.”

 

The correspondent also received “information suggesting that a Future Movement official called Abu Sakhr who is affiliated with Mount Lebanon Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Ali Jozo was injured.”

 

“At dawn, Future Movement and Jamaa Islamiya supporters blocked the Naameh road” to the north of Saadiyat, the station added.

 

Saadiyat, which lies along the highway linking Beirut and Sidon, has been the scene of a number of demonstrations in past years; residents of the town have blocked the coastal road with burning tires in support of the Future Movement or to protest incidents involving Sunnis in Lebanon.

 

In September 2012, the area witnessed a similar armed clash between supporters of the Future Movement and Hezbollah that left at least one person injured.

 

Four years earlier, a firefight erupted between Hezbollah members living in a building in Saadiyat and a number of its Sunni residents, at a time when accusations that the Shiite party was aiming to expand into the town were being lodged.

A picture circulated on Twitter purports to show Future Movement militiamen deployed in Saadiyat.

The altercation [in] Saadiyat broke out because of a celebration at a Shiite prayer site that was opened in the Sunni-majority area.