Two dead after Lebanon’s Hezbollah fight with residents of Christian town

Fighting began after a Hezbollah truck overturned in the town of Kahaleh, and residents closed roads.

A supporter of Lebanon's Hezbollah gestures as he holds a Hezbollah flag in Marjayoun, Lebanon May 7, 2018 [File: Aziz Taher/Reuters]

Two people were killed in fighting between members of the Shia armed group Hezbollah and residents of a Christian town after the residents surrounded an overturned truck, in the worst clash between Hezbollah and its opponents in Lebanon since fighting broke out in Beirut two years ago.

The truck – which Hezbollah said it owned – overturned on a downhill turn near the mountain town of Kahaleh on Wednesday evening and residents swiftly shut down the road around it.

The armed group, which dominates Lebanon militarily, said that one of the dead was its member, and that “militias” had attacked the crew.

Local security sources said that the other person killed was a Christian resident of the town, which lies 12 kilometres southeast of Beirut, on the main road from Damascus.

There were no details on the contents of the truck, but the Lebanese Forces, a Christian party opposed to Hezbollah, accused the group of using it to transport weapons.

The local man killed was named as 64-year-old Fadi Bejjani. His son Youssef said that they had tried to get close to the truck after it had flipped.

“We were a metre away but couldn’t see what was inside the truck,” Youssef Bejjani said. “At least three men started shooting at us – two with machine guns and one with a pistol. My dad fell to the ground but there was so much gunfire that we couldn’t get to him for three minutes.”

Lebanese broadcasters Al-Jadeed and MTV Lebanon aired footage of men in plainclothes shooting rifles in the street.

Translation: Video shows armed men after the truck was overturned in Kahaleh.

The broadcasters later showed Lebanese army troops deployed around the truck at nightfall while a crane worked to move wooden crates out of the truck. Large groups of residents were still gathered around, with many telling the broadcasters that they intended to keep the road closed.

Lebanese media reported that Prime Minister Najib Mikati has been following up with army commander Joseph Aoun on an investigation into the incident.

Hezbollah is a powerful Iran-backed organisation that retained its weapons following Lebanon’s civil war and has deployed in neighbouring Syria.

Two years ago, at least seven people were killed in clashes along a former front line of Lebanon’s civil war, following a rally held by Hezbollah and its Shia ally Amal against a judge investigating the Beirut port blast of 2020.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies