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Beirut explosion

Top US Republican hits out at Hezbollah, voices concern over situation in Lebanon

A senior US official was in Beirut during the clashes and almost canceled a scheduled press conference, according to sources familiar with her trip.

Published: Updated:

The top Republican senator on the US Senate Foreign Relations committee voiced concern Thursday over the deteriorating situation in Lebanon, calling on Hezbollah to take its hands off the Beirut blast investigation.

“I am concerned by increasing levels of instability & attempts to curb judicial independence in #Lebanon,” Senator Jim Risch tweeted.

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Earlier Thursday, Hezbollah and Amal Movement protesters marched toward the Justice Ministry to demand the removal of the judge leading the Beirut blast investigations.

Shortly after, unidentified gunmen fired at the Hezbollah and Amal supporters burning pictures of Judge Tarek Bitar and claiming the US ambassador backed him.

This ensued in deadly clashes between the gunmen and scores of armed men from Hezbollah and Amal.

The Shiite duo accused the right-wing Lebanese Forces of being behind the shootings. The latter put out a statement denying any involvement.

“The investigation into the #Beirut port blast must continue free from #Hezbollah-backed political interference. The Lebanese people deserve accountability for these crimes,” the US senator said after the clashes.

Supporters of Hezbollah and the Amal movement burn a portrait of Judge Tarek Bitar, the Beirut blast lead investigator, and US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea near the Justice Palace, Oct. 14, 2021. (AP)
Supporters of Hezbollah and the Amal movement burn a portrait of Judge Tarek Bitar, the Beirut blast lead investigator, and US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea near the Justice Palace, Oct. 14, 2021. (AP)

US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was about to hold a press conference when the fighting broke out. Sources familiar with her trip said the briefing was almost canceled due to the situation.

Read more: Snipers on roofs fired at protesters in Beirut, aimed at their heads: Statement