BEIRUT: Tear gas was used by security forces early Monday to disperse protesters and supporters of the country's two biggest Shiite parties after Hezbollah and Amal attacked demonstrators in Downtown Beirut.
At 3 a.m. tear gas was fired at a group of Hezbollah and Amal supporters before security forces turned and shot tear gas at the protesters around 200 meters away. The Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces had stood between the two groups, for hours, as chants from both sides followed.
The altercations started at around 10:30 p.m. Sunday night when a group of protesters blocked the Ring Bridge in Beirut.
Shortly after, a number of men on motorcycles rushed to the area and a brief scuffle ensued before riot police from the ISF hurried to the scene and pushed the Hezbollah and Amal supporters back.
The Hezbollah and Amal supporters could be heard chanting in praise of Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah as well as, “Shiite, Shiite, Shiite.”
On the other side, protesters chanted, “All of them means all of them … Nasrallah is one of them.” Others chants that were heard were, "This is Lebanon, not Iran," and "Terrorist, terrorist, Hezbollah is a terrorist."
During the standoff, a number of the Hezbollah and Amal supporters tried to run around the security forces and attack the protesters. Security forces quickly pushed them back.
Protesters continued to chant profanities directed at Nasrallah and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who also heads the Amal Movement. The demonstrators also said they would continue protesting without being deterred, as they banged on metal objects in the area.
At least one ISF member was injured as rocks were hurled back and forth between the protesters and supporters of Hezbollah and Amal.
This is not the first time supporters of the country’s two largest Shiite parties attack protesters. Last month, their supporters raided tents in Riad al-Solh and beat men and women who were protesting against the rampant corruption in the country. Nasrallah called on his supporters to withdraw during a televised speech. But within an hour after the Hezbollah supporters cleared the square, the square was full again, with demonstrators chanting defiantly, "All of them means all of them."
Anti-government protests started on Oct. 17 and have spread across the entire country since. The pressure of the demonstrations forced Saad Hariri to resign as prime minister on Oct. 29. In order for a new premier to be designated and attempt to form a new government, the president must call for binding parliamentary consultations. President Michel Aoun has not yet done so.
Hariri is the favorite to be designated; however, he says he will only return if he heads a fully technocratic government. Hezbollah has refused. The Iran-backed group alleges that the U.S. wants it out of any future government.