At least three people were killed in an ambush on Shi’ite mourners in a town south of Beirut on Sunday, a day after a member of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group was killed in retaliation, according to security sources and a senior Hezbollah source.
The three were shot in Khaldeh, where sectarian tensions between the town’s Shi’ite and Sunni residents have long simmered. According to witnesses, several others were taken to the hospital in civilian vehicles.
Footage of a video broadcast on Hezbollah’s Manar TV channel showed a volley of gunfire being fired on the convoy of mourners arriving at the home of the slain member of Shi’ite group Hezbollah.
As the incident unfolded, politicians expressed concern that any escalation would exacerbate a slew of crises in Lebanon, given the country’s political vacuum.
President Michel Aoun stated that the situation “does not permit any security incidents” that could exacerbate sectarian tensions.
In a statement, Iran-backed Hezbollah, Lebanon’s most powerful armed group, urged authorities to pursue the perpetrators, saying the incident reflected lawlessness and bigotry.
In a later statement, Hezbollah said two of the mourners were confirmed dead in what it said was a planned ambush and called on the army and security forces to restore security.
Sunni Arab tribes who reside in the town said in a statement after the slaying of Hezbollah member Ali Shibli on Saturday, during a wedding, that they had taken revenge for the death of one of their relatives during earlier sectarian clashes in the same area.
In Lebanon, a grouping of Arab Sunni tribes issued a statement saying they did not want to be drawn into an armed conflict, but blamed Hezbollah for the problems and accused it of inciting sectarian tensions.
Najib Mekati, the country’s next Prime Minister, has asked the army’s commander to beef up security in the town, which is located on a coastal highway leading to the country’s south.
Local television stations aired footage of armed youths rampaging through the area. The army, which has sent reinforcements to Khaldeh, has stated that it will shoot at any source of gunfire.