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Lebanon: Shots fired at defense minister's car amid rising instability

The incident followed deadly clashes after a Hezbollah vehicle carrying ammunition overturned in a Christian village.
A vehicle displays the flags of Iran and the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah as it moves in a funerary procession for a fallen fighter in Beirut's predominantly-Shiite Muslim southern suburb, on August 10, 2023 after he was killed the previous day amidst clashes between Hezbollah and residents of the Christian town of Kahale in Mount Lebanon. The Lebanese army said on August 10 that it had seized munitions from a Hezbollah truck that overturned near Beirut, leading to deadly clashes between Christian res

Lebanese Defense Minister Maurice Slim’s vehicle was shot at in Beirut on Thursday in yet another sign of rising tensions in Lebanon in the last 48 hours.

Slim’s office said that his vehicle was hit by two bullets but that he is “fine,” Lebanon’s official National News Agency reported.

Further details were not immediately available. Local media outlets reported that the incident occurred in the Jisr El Basha area of Beirut.

The shooting comes amid rising instability in Lebanon. On Wednesday, two people were killed when a truck carrying ammunition for Hezbollah overturned.

The Lebanese army said that a truck loaded with munitions overturned on a highway in Kahaleh, east of Beirut. Two people were subsequently killed in a clash between the vehicle’s escort and locals. The army responded to the scene and transported the truck’s load to a military site before removing the truck and reopening the road, the National News Agency reported.

Reuters reported that the clashes occurred between Hezbollah members and residents in the predominantly Christian village. One Hezbollah member and one local were killed, according to the outlet.

Hezbollah said that “militiamen” attacked the convoy and sought to take control of the truck, the group’s news outlet Al-Manar reported. The local office of the Christian militia Lebanese Forces accused Hezbollah of firing at civilians, according to Reuters.

Video of the incident spread of Lebanese social media on Thursday.

Lebanese Forces is a Christian political and military organization led by Samir Geagea. The group is a rival of Hezbollah, and the two fought on opposite sides in the civil war that ended in 1990.

Why it matters: The two incidents came at a tense time for Lebanon. The currently is still mired in an economic crisis. On the political front, the parliament has also failed to elect a president since Michel Aoun left office in October. Hezbollah’s candidate, Suleiman Frangieh, is opposed by Lebanese Forces and other Christian groups. The presidency is held by a Christian in Lebanon’s power-sharing system.

Hezbollah has a degree of support in Lebanon, but the group's armed activities and high degree of political power are also opposed by many in the country. 

Tensions between Hezbollah and Israel are also rising. On Tuesday, Israel's defense minister vowed to “return Lebanon to the stone age” in the event of a war with the group. There have been numerous security incidents on the border throughout the summer. The situation escalated after Hezbollah set up tents to house militants along the border in May.

Clashes between armed groups are not common in Lebanon. However, in 2021, a shooting at a Hezbollah protest in Beirut left six people dead. Hezbollah blamed the violence on Lebanese Forces.

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