At least five people, including three members of Hezbollah, were killed on Sunday south of Beirut when a funeral procession for a party member was ambushed, a Lebanese security source told AFP.
Several people were injured in an exchange of fire in the Khalde region between members of the Lebanese Shiite group and Sunni residents, the source said.
The funeral was for a Hezbollah man killed the day before, the source added.
Hezbollah, in a statement, called on the military and security forces to arrest those behind the “ambush” which it said killed two members of the funeral procession.
A military source told AFP that the army had deployed in force in the region and had sent reinforcements.
The army said in a statement that the soldiers would “open fire on all armed men in the streets of Khalde” and in response to any further shootings.
Despite the warnings, sporadic gunfire lasted around three hours after the violence erupted, according to an AFP photographer. A precarious calm settles in the evening.
Military checkpoints supported by armored vehicles were erected at various road crossings leading to Khalde.
The Lebanese Red Cross told AFP that it had transported four wounded, including one in serious condition, for medical treatment.
– Call for restraint –
“But the number of injured is higher, because many were transported in private cars while the Red Cross was unable to access the scene of the clashes,” said a spokesperson for the Red Cross.
Gunfire, sniper fire caused panic in the area as people fled restaurants and beaches, local media reported.
The state-run National News Agency said Hezbollah operative Ali Shebli was killed at close range during a Saturday night wedding in Khalde, apparently out of revenge for the deaths of two people l last year in the same region.
Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati called for “restraint” and warned against confessional “discord”.
Tensions between Sunnis and Shiites are often high in multi-faith Lebanon.
The violence comes as Lebanon faces an economic crisis described by the World Bank as one of the worst in the world since the mid-19th century.
The country is grappling with growing poverty, a plummeting currency and shortages of basic items, from drugs to fuel.
He has been without a government for almost a year after resigning from the cabinet following a catastrophic explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4.
Lebanon has been plunged into political instability since a nationwide protest movement erupted in late 2019 demanding an end to the sectarian power-sharing system it says rewards corruption and incompetence.
© 2021 AFP