Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement on Thursday buried one of its members who was killed a day earlier when a truck carrying ammunition belonging to the Iran-backed group overturned near Beirut, sparking clashes.
Hundreds turned out for the funeral of Ahmad Ali Kassas in Beirut’s southern suburbs, a Hezbollah stronghold, an AFP photographer said, adding that heavy gunfire rang out during the procession.
The office of Lebanon’s Defence Minister Maurice Slim said a bullet hit the minister’s car as it passed through a district near the area, without harming him.
Ruling out an assassination attempt, a military source and a security source told AFP on condition of anonymity that Slim’s vehicle was hit by “a stray bullet” whose origin was unidentified.
Earlier Thursday, the Lebanese army said it seized munitions from a Hezbollah truck that had overturned in the town of Kahale near Beirut, leading to deadly clashes between Christian residents and members of the powerful Shiite Muslim group.
The violence erupted on Wednesday evening after the accident in the town located in the mountains east of the Lebanese capital, on the road linking it to the Bekaa Valley bordering Syria.
Kahale mayor Abboud Abi Khalil told AFP that residents had surrounded the truck demanding to know what was inside, before Hezbollah members escorting it opened fire and killed one of them.
Hezbollah said one of its members was shot and later died of his wounds.
“A number of armed men… present in the area gathered and attacked” those escorting the truck, a Hezbollah statement said Wednesday.
“They began by throwing rocks, and then opened fire,” the group added.
Hezbollah supporters posted pictures on social media showing Kassas dressed in military fatigues in Syria, where Hezbollah has been fighting on the side of President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil war that erupted in 2011.
The army confirmed in a statement on Thursday that two people had been killed and said ammunition had been seized from the truck.
“The cargo of the truck has been transported to a military centre, and an investigation has been opened by the competent judicial authorities,” it added.
The army said its troops had removed the truck at dawn and reopened the Beirut-Damascus road which Kahale residents had blocked in protest.
Hezbollah is the only Lebanese faction that kept its weapons after the end of the 1975-1990 civil war. It is considered a “terrorist” organisation by many Western governments.
In August 2021, angry residents of a mainly Druze village in southern Lebanon stopped a truck carrying a rocket launcher used by Hezbollah in an attack on Israel, accusing the Shiite movement of endangering civilian lives.