Two MEA planes at Beirut airport hit by stray bullets from suspected celebratory gunfire

Two MEA planes at Beirut airport hit by stray bullets from suspected celebratory gunfire
Bullets thought to be from celebratory gunfire left a couple of planes parked at Beirut airport with material damage, in an incident similar to one in November.
3 min read
01 January, 2023
The source of the stray bullets was not immediately clear, and it is suspected to be from celebratory gunfire [Getty/archive]

Two Middle East Airlines (MEA) passenger planes parked at Beirut airport were damaged by stray bullets from what seemed to be celebratory gunfire overnight Saturday.

Images shared online show bullet holes in the T7-ME2 and T7-ME9 planes, both Airbus A321neo aircraft.

They were taken away to be repaired.

The source of the stray bullets was not immediately clear, however the region surrounding the Rafik Hariri International Airport – in Beirut’s southern suburbs - very often witnesses celebratory gunfire.

While no deaths were recorded, a passenger outside the airport miraculously survived when a stray bullet flew past his neck, while another landed in his mobile phone.

Another woman in the nearby Jnah neighbourhood also said a stray bullet landed in her car window, after suffering a similar incident a year earlier.


The country’s interior ministry had warned against celebratory gunfire hours before New Year celebrations, calling on citizens to refrain from shooting in the air.

This dangerous act has previously killed or wounded many people in Lebanon.

Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF) released a statement, saying that while the night was a success with no recorded "security incidents", three people were injured in celebratory gunfire in Beirut and Tripoli.

"So far 116 names of suspected shooters have been identified, and work is underway to arrest them in coordination with the judiciary," the statement said.

The ISF asked people to send pictures, videos and other information of any shooters they see or know of.

Another MEA passenger plane bound from Jordan to Lebanon was hit by a stray bullet while landing in Beirut in November. The bullet landed near the seat of a member of parliament who was aboard that plane.

MEA Chairman Mohamad El-Hout had told Reuters that seven to eight stationary planes are hit by stray bullets shot from areas neighbouring Beirut airport each year.

The November incident was however the first time it had occurred while a plane was moving.

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Celebratory gunfire is a common occurrence in Lebanon, where gun ownership is widespread and many gun owners are given immunity by politicians.

Weapons are fired during events such as political speeches, funerals, and the release of official exam results.

But such incidents tend to take place much more often in areas south of Beirut, the northern city of Tripoli and the eastern Baalbek governorate, regions where crime has spiked in recent years due to Lebanon’s unprecedented economic crisis.