Bullets fly in the air after Beirut clashes, reigniting civilian flight fears
Fatal clashes between families near the Lebanese capital Wednesday night have reignited concerns about safety and security measures at Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport, as bullets flew by close to its perimeter.
Gun battles raged in the Jnah neighbourhood of Beirut's southern suburbs on Monday night and broke out again Wednesday evening, reportedly over a personal dispute between two families.
Local media said one person died and more were wounded.
A shocking video, which went viral on Wednesday, showed bullets being fired toward a Middle East Airlines (MEA) passenger plane landing at Lebanon's only international airport.
نجاة طائرة مدنية من كارثة محققة قبل هبوطها بمطار بيروت من إطلاق النار الذي حصل في منطقة الجناح امس pic.twitter.com/HFeygozXNV— Lebanon 24 (@Lebanon24) March 8, 2023
The New Arab reached out to the Lebanese Civil Aviation Authority for comment.
Transport and Public Works Minister Ali Hamieh said Thursday that gunshots were fired at random during the clashes and the aircraft was not a target.
He said there was "no political protection" for those behind the shootings around the airport, which his ministry oversees, adding that the Lebanese army had arrested seven suspects.
The military - often in charge of maintaining internal security alongside other security forces - raided Jnah in search of culprits.
It was unclear how many suspects have been arrested.
مداهمات للجيش اللبناني في منطقة الجناح بحثا عن مطلوبين تسببوا باطلاق النار خلال الأشكال ليل أمس pic.twitter.com/24p29nqwY2— Fouad Khreiss (@fouadkhreiss) March 7, 2023
The incident has angered Lebanese people, raising fears that airlines could halt flights to Beirut over safety concerns.
Planes have been hit by stray bullets in the past.
On New Year’s Eve, two MEA passenger planes parked at the airport were damaged by stray bullets from celebratory gunfire, causing injuries.
Another MEA passenger plane flying to Lebanon from Jordan was hit by a stray bullet while landing at the airport in November. The bullet landed near the seat of a member of parliament who was aboard that plane.
The southern suburbs of Beirut, which Jnah is part of, are largely controlled by the Shia Hezbollah and Amal Movement groups, both of which still bear arms. They are often accused of protecting gunmen and fugitives.