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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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.

7:11 a.m. ET, October 14, 2021

Red Cross confirms five dead in Beirut; gunfire ongoing

Lebanese security forces react to gunfire during a protest in Beirut on October 14.
Lebanese security forces react to gunfire during a protest in Beirut on October 14. (Hussein Malla)

The Lebanese Red Cross says five people are now confirmed dead and more than 30 wounded in the violence in Beirut on Thursday.

Heavy gunfire is still ongoing, hours after it initially broke out while Hezbollah supporters were heading to a demonstration calling for the removal of the judge leading the investigation into the August 2020 port blast.

6:42 a.m. ET, October 14, 2021

Thursday's violence comes amid an investigation that has rattled Lebanon's elite

The aftermath of a massive explosion at the port in Beirut, Lebanon, is seen in this image taken August 5, 2020.
The aftermath of a massive explosion at the port in Beirut, Lebanon, is seen in this image taken August 5, 2020. (Daniel Carde/Getty Images)

Thursday's violence came ahead of a protest calling for the removal of a judge whose investigation into last year's port blast has sent shockwaves through Lebanon's political elite.

Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese militant and political group, has been a staunch opponent of Tarek Bitar, the popular judge who is leading the probe into the explosion at Beirut's port that killed more than 200 people last August.

Since his appointment to the investigation in February, Bitar has sought top political and security officials for questioning.

This week Bitar issued an arrest warrant for former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil, a top official from the Hezbollah-allied Amal party. Bitar has also issued arrest warrants for lawmaker Nouhad Machnouk, an ally of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and an ex-interior minister.

Bitar, who also heads Beirut's criminal court, is the second judicial investigator to lead the port investigation. The first judge tasked with handling the probe was dismissed after two former government ministers charged in the investigation successfully filed a motion for his removal.

Several legal petitions by officials being prosecuted to dismiss Bitar have been unsuccessful.

During a televised speech on Monday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah chastised the judge, accusing him of being "politicized."

6:18 a.m. ET, October 14, 2021

Three now dead in Beirut clashes; Hezbollah accuses armed groups of 'sowing civil strife'

From CNN’s Mostafa Salem and Tamara Qiblawi

A man runs for cover as gunfire erupts in Beirut on October 14.
A man runs for cover as gunfire erupts in Beirut on October 14. (Hassan Ammar/AP)

The number of people who were killed in clashes in Beirut has risen to three, state news agency NNA said. At least nine people were injured at one hospital, an ER doctor told CNN earlier. 

A high-ranking official from the Iran-backed group Hezbollah told CNN that they “will not fire back,” after Lebanon's army said it would shoot anyone carrying arms in the areas that had seen clashes.

“They want to drag us into civil strife and we do not want to sow civil strife,” the official said. 

Hezbollah-allied demonstrators were protesting the judge assigned to investigate the 2020 deadly port blast.

“It’s clear that those who fired at the protesters were organized armed groups who have been planning this attack since yesterday,” the Hezbollah official added.

5:41 a.m. ET, October 14, 2021

Lebanese army says it will shoot any armed person, urges people to vacate streets

From CNN’s Mostafa Salem in Abu Dhabi

Lebanese soldiers are deployed after gunfire erupted near the site of a protest in Beirut on October 14.
Lebanese soldiers are deployed after gunfire erupted near the site of a protest in Beirut on October 14. Mohamed Azakir/Reuters

Lebanon’s army warned it will shoot any armed person in the areas of Beirut where clashes have broken out.

In a statement on Twitter, the army also called for people to vacate streets near clashes in the Tayouneh neighborhood.

5:24 a.m. ET, October 14, 2021

At least one dead and nine injured, says hospital

From CNN’s Tamara Qiblawi

At least one person was killed and nine were injured after the clashes took place, an emergency room doctor who did not wish to be named at al-Sahel hospital in Beirut told CNN. 

5:21 a.m. ET, October 14, 2021

Gunfire breaks out at protests in Beirut

From CNN's Tamara Qiblawi

Shattered glass and debris are seen after gunfire erupted at a site near a protest against Judge Tarek Bitar in Beirut, Lebanon, on October 14.
Shattered glass and debris are seen after gunfire erupted at a site near a protest against Judge Tarek Bitar in Beirut, Lebanon, on October 14. Mohamed Azakir/Reuters

Heavy gunfire has broken out at a demonstration in Beirut calling for the removal of a judge leading a probe into the deadly August 2020 port blast.

Hundreds of supporters of Iran-backed Hezbollah and its main Shia ally, Amal, were marching towards the Lebanese capital's Palace of Justice when shots were fired at the protesters from an unknown location, forcing demonstrators and journalists to take cover, according to local broadcasters.

Local TV also showed a masked protester shooting a weapon from behind a street barrier and black smoke rising from one of the nearby buildings.

Hezbollah has been a staunch opponent of Tariq Bitar, the popular judge who is leading the Beirut blast investigation and has sought the prosecution of high-level officials.