Lebanese paper pictures Christian political leader as Hitler after deadly Beirut firefight

Hezbollah official says the Christian party was acting on orders from the United States when its fighters shot at its followers, in order to cause a civil war.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A Lebanese newspaper affiliated with Hezbollah ran a picture of a Christian political leader looking like Hitler on its front page Friday as it blamed him for several deaths during a protest the previous day in the country’s capital.

Seven Shiites died and dozens were wounded when a march by hundreds of Hezbollah followers against the ongoing investigation of last year’s port blast got to a known Christian-Muslim boundary in Beirut.  An “exchange of gunfire” began, according to the Lebanese army, while the terror organization that is part of the government accused the Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) party of having snipers on rooftops fire into the crowd, which then reacted in self-defense.

Al-Akhbar’s editor-in-chief, Ibrahim al-Amine, charged the LF’s leader with responsibility for the “crime,” as his headline screamed, “No Doubt.”

“Samir Geagea, you were the first to know what happened yesterday,” he wrote. “Not through intelligence you never knew existed, but because you planned and prepared and carried out a crime that matches what you have done since you took up arms. It is a crime. Greater than all the crimes you have committed here and there, as [you strive] to start a widespread civil war.”

Lebanon suffered through a 15-year civil war from 1975 to 1990 that killed well over 100,000 Christians and Muslims and led to 15 years of partial Syrian occupation of the country. The violence has revived fears of a new round of internecine fighting.

A senior Hezbollah leader accused the Christian faction of wanting such a thing during one of the funerals Friday, but said the organization would not go down that path.

“Because they know we don’t want civil strife, they dared to [shoot],” said Hashem Safieddine. “We will not be dragged into civil war, but at the same time we will not let the blood of our martyrs be [shed] in vain.”

Safieddine also said that Christian party was acting on orders from the United States when its fighters shot at the demonstrators. A Hezbollah-affiliated MP went further at a political meeting, according to Al-Akhbar, stating that the “goal” of the “treacherous ambush” was “to drag the country into sedition and civil war in the service of the American and other forces.”

Although unnamed, the “forces” he referred to could be Saudi Arabia, which, like the United States, has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist group. The LF party is considered close to the Saudi regime.

Geagea denied that his forces had planned any violence, saying that the Christian neighborhoods of the capital are always protected by his men and that they had been assured that the demonstration would be quiet.

“The army has arrested snipers so they need to tell us who they are and where they came from,” he said on Voice of Beirut International radio.

Last October, Geagea threated to sue Al-Akhbar over claims that he had said that his forces “are able to confront” Hezbollah, which his party sees as a threat to the integrity of the Lebanese state.

Thursday’s demonstrators had been calling for the resignation of the judge investigating a huge explosion at the Beirut port, caused by improperly stored ammonium nitrate that belonged to Hezbollah. Most of the officials who have been called for questioning belong to the terrorist group, but they have refused to appear, and the families of the hundreds of victims who died and were injured in the accident fear that the investigation will go nowhere or end up in a whitewash, due to the power Hezbollah holds in the country.