Clashes between supporters of Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, Saad al-Hariri, and Shi’ite groups Hezbollah and Amal erupted into gunfire in Beirut, state news agency NNA reported.
The clashes marked the second consecutive night of violence linked to Lebanon’s political crisis, threatening to tip largely peaceful demonstrations directed at the country’s ruling elite into a more bloody direction.
A video by Lebanese broadcaster LBCI showed heavy gunfire around Cola bridge in Beirut. The source of the gunfire was not immediately clear. No injuries were reported.
In the southern town Tyre, supporters of Hezbollah and Amal tore up protest tents and set them on fire, prompting security forces to intervene and fire into the air, according to Lebanese media.
The protests since October 17 are fuelled by resentment for a ruling class seen as mired in corruption and having driven the economy into crisis.
Supporters of Amal and the heavily armed Hezbollah occasionally attempted to break up demonstrations and clear roads cut off by protesters. They destroyed a main protest camp in central Beirut last month.
The groups were influential in the coalition government led by Hariri, who quit on October 29 after the protests began. They opposed Hariri’s resignation.
In a statement, Hariri’s Future Movement warned supporters to refrain from protesting and stay away from large gatherings to “avoid being dragged into provocation intended to ignite strife.”
Groups of men on motorcycles, some waving Amal and Hezbollah flags, were roving streets in Beirut and Tyre, according to witnesses and videos on Lebanese media.
Adding to tension, two people were killed when their car slammed into a traffic barrier on a coastal road, sparking criticism from Hezbollah and others of protesters cutting roads off as a primary tactic to maintain pressure.
Lebanon is facing the worst economic strains since the 1975-1990 civil war.