Beirut rocked by deadly gun battles

By Luke McGee, Tamara Qiblawi and Nick Thompson, CNN

Updated 11:44 a.m. ET, October 14, 2021
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11:44 a.m. ET, October 14, 2021

Our live updates have ended

Our live updates have ended for now. For the latest news on the violence in Beirut today, read our full report here.

11:14 a.m. ET, October 14, 2021

US calls Beirut violence 'unacceptable,' announces fresh funding for Lebanese Army

From CNN’s Celine Al Khaldi and Mostafa Salem in Abu Dhabi

The US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland has called Thursday's violence in Beirut "unacceptable," as she announced an additional $67 million in funding to the Lebanese army.

“We also as we always do, confirmed our steadfast support for the Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces. We acknowledge the vital role that they play in security and stability here,” Nuland said in a televised news conference.  

The extra funding brings the total amount of US financial support to $187 million, she said.

Nuland was speaking as heavy gunfire broke out ahead of a demonstration in Beirut calling for the removal of a judge leading a probe into the deadly August 2020 port blast.

The Lebanese Red Cross reported six deaths during the armed clashes in the Lebanese capital. Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi told reporters that snipers and gunmen "shot people in the head," while four B7 rockets were fired into the air, in the worst violence the crisis-ridden capital has seen in over 10 years.

In her announcement, Nuland said that the US stands with the Lebanese people.

10:31 a.m. ET, October 14, 2021

UN Lebanon envoy calls for “maximum restraint”

From CNN's Mostafa Salem

The United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Joanna Wronecka, has called on parties to exercise “maximum restraint."

“I am concerned about incidents of violence occurring in Beirut today, Wronecka wrote on Twitter.

"At this juncture it is critical to show maximum restraint, ensure that calm is restored and that citizens are protected,” she said.

9:47 a.m. ET, October 14, 2021

Hezbollah accuses Lebanese Forces Party of attack

From CNN’s Tamara Qiblawi, Charbel Mallo and Mostafa Salem

Hezbollah have said their supporters were sniped at from buildings by the right-wing Christian Lebanese Forces Party during Thursday's violent clashes in Beirut.

Hezbollah and their allied Amal Movement accused the party, without providing evidence, in a statement that also called on the Lebanese military to arrest the assailants who shot at their protesters earlier on Thursday.

“We call for the army to assume their responsibilities in restoring normality and arrest the perpetrators of the killings, who are known by name,” the statement said. 

Hezbollah and Amal called the violence an “intentional operation” by the Lebanese Forces party, headed by Samir Geagea. 

Geagea has condemned the violence on Twitter, and blamed it on the widespread availability of weapons in Lebanon, without addressing the accusations.

9:17 a.m. ET, October 14, 2021

The worst violence in Beirut in years is the last thing disaster-stricken Lebanon needs 

Bullets hit a building amidst clashes in Beirut on Thursday.
Bullets hit a building amidst clashes in Beirut on Thursday. (AFP/Getty Images)

Beirut witnessed its worst violence in over a decade as gunfire erupted ahead a controversial protest in central Beirut.  

Dozens of supporters of Iran-backed Hezbollah and their Shia allies Amal were marching towards the country’s Justice Palace when unknown gunmen and snipers fired from rooftops causing demonstrators to take cover and disperse.  

The Iran-backed militant and political group Hezbollah had called Thursday’s protest to demand the removal of Tarek Bitar, a popular judge heading a probe into last year’s port blast which killed over 200 people. The judge has issued arrest warrants for some top officials, including a high-ranking official from the Amal movement, which is allied with Hezbollah. 

Beirut’s residents, war-seasoned and with a sixth sense for impending violence, were already preparing for the worst. No sooner had the sniper fire begun than masked men dressed in black, apparently affiliated with the protesters, started to shoot rifles and RPGs, according to social media videos.  

At least five people have been killed — with some having been shot in the head — and over 30 people injured. Smoke billowed from buildings that were being fired upon. Lebanon’s residents glued to their TV sets watched as one person tumbled over and laid still on the ground, after having been shot.  

Children were taking cover in classrooms at nearby schools, according to social media posts, and Civil Defense units were reportedly evacuating residents holed up in their apartments. Local broadcasters also showed video of people in underground garages, which were used as bomb shelters during Lebanon’s 15-year civil war which ended in 1990. 

Lebanon’s government, the military and the protest’s organizers — Hezbollah and Amal — have called for calm. But for hours gun and rocket fire continue to ring out in the area, which is near the birthplace of civil war -- a fact that was not lost on Lebanese people rattled by years of a devastating economic crisis.  

Thursday’s violence comes as some in Lebanon’s ruling elite have redoubled their efforts to remove Judge Bitar from his post. Hezbollah emerged as the judge’s most vociferous opponent and — according to one source familiar with the conversation — sent him a threat to “usurp” him. 

Bitar has not sought to prosecute Hezbollah officials in the probe so far. Yet the Iran-backed armed group’s campaign against the popular judge has created yet another political fault-line in the crisis-ridden country. It’s pitted Hezbollah as the most staunch defender of the political establishment against a judge who many in the country hail has a hero. 

It’s unclear if Thursday’s violence will expand or fizzle out, but another chapter of political crisis is the last thing the disaster-stricken country needs.

Lebanon is in the throes of one of the worst economic depressions since the mid-19th century, according to the World Bank. Inflation and poverty rates have skyrocketed in the past two years and basic goods are often hard to come by.

9:03 a.m. ET, October 14, 2021

Gun and rocket fire in Beirut appears to have paused for now

Lebanese soldiers patrol a street after the gunfire erupted.
Lebanese soldiers patrol a street after the gunfire erupted. (Mohamed Azakir/Reuters)

A cautious calm is now hanging over over Beirut as the fierce gun and rocket fire appears to have paused, and some traffic returned to the streets of the capital.

Lebanon's Civil Defense and Red Cross teams continue to evacuate shellshocked residents from the Tayouneh neighborhood where the gun battles were concentrated earlier.

9:01 a.m. ET, October 14, 2021

Prime Minister monitoring the violence from Ministry of Defence

From CNN’s Mostafa Salem in Abu Dhabi

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati moved to the headquarters of the Ministry of Defense to monitor the situation as clashes continue in the Beirut neighborhood of Tayouneh, a statement on Twitter said. 

"The army is proceeding with its field measures to address the situation, restore security, remove elements violating security, and arrest those involved to refer them to the judiciary,” a statement said.

8:13 a.m. ET, October 14, 2021

Death toll rises to six

The Lebanese Red Cross has updated the death toll of clashes that took place in Beruit on Thursday morning. According to a statement on Twitter, six are now dead with more than 30 wounded.

7:46 a.m. ET, October 14, 2021

Grenade launchers are being fired by assailants as Beirut gun battle continues

Fighters from the Hezbollah and Amal movements are seen during clashes in Beirut on Thursday.
Fighters from the Hezbollah and Amal movements are seen during clashes in Beirut on Thursday. (Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images)

Heavy gunfights were still ongoing Thursday afternoon in the worst violence Beirut has seen in a decade.

Live video on local news channels showed shots being fired on buildings as residents from the Al Tayhouneh neighborhood continued to evacuate the area. The Lebanese military has also cordoned off the area and set up barbed wire. 

Live feeds from local media showed masked men with machine guns in the area with armored military vehicles deploying on the streets.

Lebanon's interior minister has confirmed that B7-RPG anti-tank grenade launchers have been fired by assailants.

Five people are dead and up to 30 have been injured, according to the Red Cross.