Shooting rocks Beirut amid tensions over blast probe

Gunfire in the Lebanese capital of Beirut killed several Lebanese Shi'ites on Thursday (October 14).

Authorities say the attack was aimed at protesters planning to participate in a demonstration called by Hezbollah...

to demand the removal of the judge investigating last August's port explosion, whom they accuse of bias.

The catastrophe killed more than 200 people and devastated swathes of Beirut.

Local television footage showed bullets bouncing off buildings and people running for cover - scenes reminiscent of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Civilians were evacuated from buildings close to the gunfire...

And a Reuters witness said that at a nearby school, teachers were telling children to lie face down on the ground with their hands on their heads.

An army statement reported that the gunfire had targeted protesters as they passed through the Teyouneh traffic circle.

An area that divides Christian and Shi'ite Muslim neighborhoods.

According to a military source, shooting began from the Christian neighborhood of Ain el-Remmaneh before spiraling into an exchange of fire.

Hezbollah and its ally, the Shi'ite Amal Movement, said groups had fired at protesters from rooftops, aiming at their heads.

It claims the attack was aimed at dragging Lebanon into conflict.

The army deployed heavily in the area, saying it would open fire against any armed person on the road.

Hezbollah's al-Manar TV said "two martyrs" and a number of wounded had been taken to a hospital in the Shi'ite southern suburbs.

Bursts of gunfire were heard for hours with several explosions - seemingly rocket propelled-grenades fired into the air.

The shooting marks some of Lebanon's worst strife in years.

Political tensions have been building over the probe, and the standoff over Judge Tarek Bitar's investigation is diverting the newly formed government's attention away from addressing a deepening economic crisis.

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