Lebanese army vehicles have deployed in a Christian town that was the scene of a deadly shootout between members of the Shia group Hezbollah and residents, as the military attempts to contain tensions.
Approximately 10 army vehicles were deployed around Kahaleh on Thursday, a day after a Hezbollah truck turned over while driving on a tight bend on a major highway linking Beirut to the Bekaa Valley and Syria.
Keep readinglist of 3 items
Residents surrounded the truck demanding to know what was inside. The Lebanese army said on Thursday that the truck was carrying ammunition.
Both sides have accused each other of starting Wednesday’s shootout, which killed a Hezbollah member and a Christian resident.
The army was leading efforts to calm the situation, according to representatives of Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces (LF), a Christian faction that is staunchly opposed to Hezbollah and has a political presence in the Kahaleh area.
“Tensions were very high last night and they’re still high today,” said Nazih Matta, an LF lawmaker for the Aley region. “The army leadership in particular has been leading efforts to calm things down.”
“Residents aren’t scrambling to have an armed reaction to what happened – but … you start to think: How many trucks like that passed on that same road on the same day? Or the previous day? Or the week before? We’re sitting on a ticking time bomb,” Matta added.
In a statement published on social media on Thursday, the army said the truckload had been transported to a military centre and that an investigation had begun under the supervision of the authorities.
Hezbollah accused “militias” in the area of attacking the truck’s crew, prompting an exchange of fire. It said a man protecting the vehicle was wounded and later died.
The local office of the LF accused fighters who were accompanying the vehicle of firing at civilians, leading to the death of the local man.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah is the only Lebanese faction that officially kept its weapons after the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
A funeral was due to be held on Thursday for Ahmad Ali Kassas, the Hezbollah member who was killed in the Kahaleh clashes.
Hezbollah supporters posted pictures on social media showing Kassas dressed in military fatigues in Syria, where Hezbollah has been fighting on the side of President Bashar al-Assad against the Syrian opposition.
In August 2021, angry residents of a mainly Druze village in southern Lebanon stopped a truck carrying a rocket launcher used by Hezbollah in an attack on Israel, accusing the group of endangering civilian lives.