President Michel Aoun of Lebanon has on Sunday called for national unity after violence erupted between supporters of rival sectarian political parties.
Lebanon maintains a fragile sectarian balance since its many sects fought a 1975-1990 civil war with factions often backed by regional rivals.
Lebanese rose up last year against their political leaders, blaming them for decades of corruption and growing poverty. Lebanon now faces the biggest threat to its stability since the end of the country’s civil war in 1990.
An economic crisis, the coronavirus pandemic and national protests have raised fears of a new slide into violence.
On Saturday, security forces had fired tear gas at protesters who threw rocks because they were angry at the ruling elite and its handling of the economic crisis.
President Aoun stated in Twitter that “Our strength remains in our national unity…What happened last night is a warning bell.”
“We must put our political disputes aside and hurry to work together to revive our country from the depth of the successive crises.”it added.
Gunfire was heard in some Beirut neighbourhoods and suburbs on Saturday night during scuffles between supporters of rival parties which prompted the deployment of large numbers of security forces.
The Lebanese military on Sunday said the overnight riots and sectarian tensions in central Beirut and other areas left dozens of people injured, including 25 soldiers.
Lebanon’s army called Saturday’s clashes “a serious crisis that could have taken us into dangerous turns. What happened undermined national unity, civil peace and would have increased divisions.”
Local news has however reported that calmness was gradually returning after a tense standoff in a Christian-Shia district which was linked to the start of the civil war, along a former Frontline.