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Hezbollah spoof sparks protests

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Lebanon
Television
Hassan Nasrallah

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah urged demonstrators to return to their homes early Friday after a television program satirizing him spurred hundreds of followers to set bonfires in the streets of Beirut.

Nasrallah told Hezbollah's television network Al-Manar that he was grateful for the support, but "We care very much about stability in this country."

"I ask the demonstrators to stop their acts and go back to their families and homes," he told the network in a telephone interview.

"Your brethren in Hezbollah will follow up on this issue, so no one will be disrespected in Lebanon," he added. "But again, we don't want these feelings to be used in the wrong way."

The protests were sparked by a program on the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, a private Christian channel, in which an actor spoofed Nasrallah. Besides the bonfires, hundreds of Lebanese threw garbage cans and tires into Beirut streets and set them on fire.

The main road to Beirut's international airport was blocked, as was a smaller road in the popular nightclub area called Monot. The nightclubs, which had been busy, evacuated their patrons into the street.

Rita Khouri, an editor for LBCI's news division, said the network did not produce the program and did not necessarily endorse its political views. She said the show producer, Charbel Kahlil, had sent an apology to Al-Manar, which read it on-air.

Though there were no demonstrators near LBCI headquarters, government security forces erected a barricade in front of the building.

Several Lebanese predicted the demonstrations would further enflame an already tense situation on the streets. Hezbollah is designated a terrorist group by the United States and Israel but is a significant player in Lebanon's fractious politics.

Cross-border clashes erupted between Israeli soldiers and Hezbollah fighters last weekend after last week's assassination of a Palestinian militant leader in the southern Lebanese city of Sidon.

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad blamed the attack on Israel, which denied involvement.

Hezbollah began firing rockets, mortars and machine guns into several Israeli towns and villages on Saturday, while Israeli warplanes pounded Hezbollah targets along the border in response.

CNN's Arwa Damon contributed to this story.

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