Bullets hit car of Lebanon’s defence minister but no one hurt

Maurice Slim safe after incident that follows deployment of the army in a village where there was a deadly shootout between Hezbollah and locals.

Maurice Slim, Lebanon's caretaker defence minister
Maurice Slim was safe on after his car was hit by gunfire, Lebanon's interior minister said in a statement [File: Anwar Amro/AFP]

The car of Lebanon‘s caretaker Defence Minister Maurice Slim has come under gunfire, but no one was hurt, according to officials.

The vehicle was travelling in the Jisr el-Bashra neighbourhood on the southeast edge of the capital, Beirut, on Thursday when two bullets hit one of its windows.

Interior Minister Bassam al-Mawlawi said an investigation was under way to find out if the minister was targeted or if the incident was the result of stray bullets.

“In any case, we thank God for the safety of the minister of defence,” Mawlawi said.

It came as Lebanon’s army was deployed in a Christian village in the mountains southeast of Beirut following a deadly shootout between residents and members of the Shia group Hezbollah.

Approximately 10 army vehicles were deployed around Kahaleh on Thursday, a day after a truck driven by Hezbollah members turned over on a tight bend on a major highway linking Beirut to the Bekaa Valley and Syria.

Kahaleh Mayor Abboud Abi Khalil said residents had surrounded the truck on Wednesday evening demanding to know what was inside, before Hezbollah members escorting it opened fire and killed one of them. Iran-backed Hezbollah said one of its members was also shot and later died of his wounds.

The two sides have accused each other of starting the shootout.

Supporters of Lebanon's Hezbollah carry the coffin of Ahmed Qassas, who died during exchange of fire at the area where a truck was overturned the previous night in the town of Kahaleh, during his funeral, in Beirut suburbs, Lebanon
Supporters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah carry the coffin of Ahmed Qassas, who died during exchange of fire at the area where a truck was overturned the previous night in the town of Kahaleh [Mohamed Azakir/Reuters]

The Hezbollah member killed in the violence, Ahmed Qassas, was given a military funeral in the southern suburbs of Beirut on Thursday, his coffin draped in Hezbollah’s yellow flag.

“We will not be dragged into strife, and we will not achieve the goals of those who want to take the country into strife,” Hezbollah’s Sayyed Ali Fahs said during the funeral.

The army confirmed in a statement on Thursday that two people had been killed and said ammunition had been seized from the truck.

“The cargo of the truck has been transported to a military centre, and an investigation has been opened by the competent judicial authorities,” it added.

Lebanon has been suffering a four-year-long financial collapse that has marked its most destabilising episode since a 1975-1990 civil war. It was caused by decades of corruption and profligate spending by politicians.

Hezbollah is Lebanon’s most powerful group. Its arsenal has long been a point of conflict in Lebanon, where its opponents accuse the group of undermining the state.

Source: News Agencies