Tag Archives: Beirut
Aside 21 Oct

Beirut: Hundreds try to storm PM’s office after funeral

Violence breaks out at the funeral of assassinated top intelligence chief Wissam al-Hassan as protesters call for PM’s resignation. Channel 4 News reports on why his death has caused so much upheaval.

Violent protests follow Lebanese funeral (R)

Mourners had gathered in Beirut’s central Martyrs’ Square district [photo below] when hundreds of protestors broke away and attempted to storm the offices of Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the Grand Serail, writes Dalila Mahdawi from Beirut.

Soldiers fired bullets into the air and used tear gas in an effort to disperse the mob.

Security personnel quickly established a security cordon around the building as opposition leader and former prime minister Saad Hariri pleaded for calm, saying: “We are not advocates of violence and I call on all supporters to leave the streets immediately.”

Gerenal Wissam al-Hassan, who headed the controversial intelligence branch of the internal security forces, was killed along with seven others in a massive car bomb on Friday. He was a strong opponent of the Syrian government and was known for his close ties to the former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005, and Hariri’s Future Movement party.

His death on Friday, which occurred as many parents were collecting their children from school, has largely been blamed on Syria. Damascus has rejected involvement, calling Hassan’s killing a “cowardly” act.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who many politicians are demanding resign over the killing, arrived to the funeral to a chorus of angry boos from the crowd of around 3,000 people.

Many protestors waved flags in Arabic, English and French calling for Mikati to step down. One read: “Get the Syrian out of the Serail [government],” in reference to the President Michel Sleiman and what many Lebanese see as Mikati’s close links to the Syrian regime.

The clashes appeared to have been contained before long, but there are reports that violence has spread across Lebanon, with protestors burning tyres and shooting guns in Tripoli and other areas of Beirut.

The man who knew too much?

Dubbed by one local newspaper as “the man who knew too much,” Hassan’s investigations helped the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the international court tasked with prosecuting Hariri’s assassins and which last year indicted four men with ties to Hezbollah and the Syrian government.

Earlier this summer, he had uncovered a plot by former information minister Michel Samaha to commit terrorist attacks against high-profile Lebanese figures.

“He was privy to a lot of highly confidential information that was dangerous to many people, so he had to be eliminated,” Karim Makdessi, an associate professor of politics at the American University of Beirut, told Channel 4 News.

He was targeted as he passed through a side street off Sassine Square, a busy area in Beirut’s Christian neighborhood of Achrafieh.

“We came today out of recognition for a man who died trying to protect all of the Lebanese people,” said Adil, 64. “We are embedded in a regional conflict in which the Lebanese people have no control over their destiny. It is the duty of all patriots to join hands and unite to prevent a civil war.”

Political upheaval

Mikati is part of the dominant March 8 coalition, formed of Hezbollah and its Christian and Muslim allies and backed by Syria and Iran. He tendered his resignation on Saturday but President Michel Sleiman rejected the move, saying his departure would lead the country into further crisis.

Professor Makdessi told Channel 4 News that the opposition March 14 bloc would now try to cash in on popular anger at Hassan’s assassination in order to reassert their weakened position in government.

March 14, a coalition of pro-Western Christian and Muslim parties led by the Future Movement, has played a muted role in Lebanese politics in recent years.

“Now is the time for mourning and for coming together to create a proper national security and political agenda for the whole country. It is not the time to point fingers or to assert parochial, sectarian agendas,” said Professor Makdissi.

‘I don’t feel safe’

But many see Hassan’s assassination as the beginning of a renewed campaign against anti-Syrian figures. Between 2005 and 2008, there were 11 assassinations or attempted assassinations in Lebanon. All of the targets were politicians or journalists vocally opposed to the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.

“I don’t feel safe at all now,” said Zeina, 30. “There are only going to be more political assassinations and all of us ordinary Lebanese are going to stuck in the middle of it all again.”

Simon Haddad, a Lebanese political analyst, said that while a number of other senior Lebanese officials were now possible assassination targets, it was more likely that the diplomatic repercussions of Hassan’s death would play out in Syria.

“His killing will have more implications for the Syrian crisis more than on Lebanon,” he told Channel 4 News. “The Arab countries will start seriously to support the rebels with weapons.”

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Aside

Bombing Leaves Lebanon Shaken

21 Oct

Bombing Leaves Lebanon Shaken

The street of the bombing in Beirut that killed Wissam al-Hassan, chief of Lebanon’s internal security services. Credit: Dalila Mahdawi/IPS.The street of the bombing in Beirut that killed Wissam al-Hassan, chief of Lebanon’s internal security services. Credit: Dalila Mahdawi/IPS.

By Dalila Mahdawi

BEIRUT, Oct 21 2012 (IPS) – The assassination of Lebanon’s top security official on Friday not only ravaged a quiet Beirut neighbourhood but also shattered the precarious sense of security many Lebanese have been desperately clinging to in recent months.

Wissam al-Hassan, chief of Lebanon’s internal security services, was killed by a massive car bomb in which three others died and 100 were injured. He had just returned from Paris, to where he had moved his family amid concerns that he was being targeted for assassination.

“We suffered so much in the civil war and those memories are all coming back now,” said Anissa Bushrush, a resident of a nearby street. “People know each other in this neighbourhood but now I feel there is no safe place left. I couldn’t sleep last night because I was so terrified.”

The assassination occurred in a densely populated side street in Beirut’s predominantly Christian Achrafieh neighbourhood. Striking just before rush hour, it caused massive damage, tearing off balconies, smashing windows and sending a tower of black smoke high into the air.

Hassan was considered a controversial figure because of his close personal affiliation to Rafik Hariri, Lebanon’s former billionaire prime minister assassinated in 2005.

His killing is “a big loss for the security of Lebanon,” Walid Moubarak, director of the Institute for Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation at the Lebanese American University told IPS. Hassan had been responsible for uncovering significant security breaches in Lebanon, including Al-Qaeda, Israeli and Syrian operatives.

He was an investigator for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the international court tasked with prosecuting Hariri’s killers and which eventually blamed Syrian and Hizbullah agents. Earlier this year, Hassan had played a major role in the arrest of former information minister Michel Samaha for plotting terrorist attacks against high-profile Lebanese figures.

“He was a major obstacle for many groups inside and outside of Lebanon,” said Moubarak. “His death means they can now act in Lebanon much more freely. I hope Lebanon’s political leaders are conscientious enough to stay united.” Any divisions would only aid further violence, he said.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for Hassan’s assassination, the first in four years, but many Lebanese blame Syria. There were 11 assassinations or attempted assassinations between 2005 and 2008, all targeting outspoken critics of the Syrian regime. Tensions between the two countries have reached a critical point in recent months as political violence in Syria has begun to spill over the border.

“I’m divorced and I have a ten-year-old son to support. I’ve worked so hard to provide for us over the last few years and now I’ve lost everything,” wept Nancy Joseph Maineh, whose ground floor home was just yards from the site of the attack.

Carrying bags of her belongings away from her destroyed apartment, Maineh said she had “no idea” what the future would hold for her or the Lebanese people.

In a statement following the attack, Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi rejected his country’s involvement, condemning the killing as  “unjustifiable” and “cowardly.”

Analysts say the perpetrators had infiltrated Lebanon’s security services. “It’s very clear that there was circulation of information from inside our institutions to the people responsible for Hassan’s killing,” said Fadia Kiwan, professor of political science at the Saint Joseph University in Beirut. “Somebody saw his name on the manifest at the airport and informed his killers.”

Kiwan suggested Hassan’s demise heralded the beginning of another dark chapter of political violence in Lebanon. “I don’t wish to disseminate pessimism but we have to be realistic. These people are not playing games, they greet each other with death.”

In the wake of the killing, gunmen with scarves around their faces have taken to the streets across Lebanon, blocking roads with burning tires and opening fire at passing cars.

“It’s a predictable pattern that we often see in reaction to political events here,” Timor Goksel, former professor of conflict management at the American University of Beirut and senior advisor to UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL told IPS. “Some people take this as an opportunity to vent their anger about whatever they’re angry about in life. I don’t think it will escalate.”

Others, however, were less optimistic. One man was on his way back from Beirut airport early Saturday morning when his car was stopped at a makeshift checkpoint. After showing the men his identity papers and agreeing to a car search, Rabih Baaklini was driving off when four masked gunmen opened fire. His car was hit by 16 bullets.

“I’m not politically active, I don’t support any political party and I’ve never voted,” Baaklini said. “If I can get shot at, then anybody in Lebanon can get shot at. Life is so cheap here.”

Aside

Photos of massive explosion in Beirut’s Sassine Square

19 Oct

Massive car bomb in Beirut’s Sassine Square

A woman is helped by a Lebanese soldier after an explosion in Ashafriyeh district, central Beirut, October 19, 2012. (Reuters)
A woman is helped by a Lebanese soldier after an explosion in Ashafriyeh district, central Beirut, October 19, 2012. (Reuters)
Lebanese army soldiers secure the area at the site of an explosion in Ashrafieh, central Beirut, October 19, 2012. (Reuters)
Lebanese army soldiers secure the area at the site of an explosion in Ashrafieh, central Beirut, October 19, 2012. (Reuters)
A civil defence member helps a wounded man at the site of an explosion in Ashrafieh, central Beirut, October 19, 2012. (Reuters)
A civil defence member helps a wounded man at the site of an explosion in Ashrafieh, central Beirut, October 19, 2012. (Reuters)
A wounded woman is carried at the site of an explosion in Ashrafieh, central Beirut, October 19, 2012. (Reuters)
A wounded woman is carried at the site of an explosion in Ashrafieh, central Beirut, October 19, 2012. (Reuters)
Ashrafieh, east Beirut, October 19, 2012. (Image from twitter user@YorgoElBittar)
Ashrafieh, east Beirut, October 19, 2012. (Image from twitter user@YorgoElBittar)
Ashrafieh, east Beirut, October 19, 2012. (Image from twitter user@DiAyDi)
Ashrafieh, east Beirut, October 19, 2012. (Image taken from twitter user@DiAyDi)
Ashrafieh, east Beirut, October 19, 2012. (Image from twitter user@svhoorn)
Ashrafieh, east Beirut, October 19, 2012. (Image taken from twitter user@svhoorn)

A car burns at the site of an explosion in Ashrafieh, east Beirut, October 19, 2012. (Reuters)

(Reuters) – A huge car bomb exploded in a street in central Beirut during rush hour on Friday, killing at least two people and wounding 46, witnesses and security sources said.

It was not immediately clear if the explosion targeted any political figure in Lebanon’s divided community but it occurred at a time of heightened tension between Lebanese factions on opposite sides of the Syria conflict.

The bomb exploded in the street where the office of the anti-Assad Christian Phalange Party is located.

Ambulances rushed to the scene of the blast near Sassine Square in Ashafriyeh, a mostly Christian area, as smoke rose from the area. It occurred during rush hour, when many parents were picking up children from school.

The security source confirmed two dead. At least 46 people were wounded, another security source said.

Several cars were destroyed by the explosion and the front of a multi-storey building was badly damaged, with tangled wires and metal railings crashing to the ground.

Residents ran about in panic looking for relatives while others helped carry the wounded to ambulances.

Security forces blanketed the area.

The war in neighboring Syria, which has killed 30,000 people so far, has pitted mostly Sunni insurgents against President Bashar al-Assad, who is from the Alawite sect linked to Shi’ite Islam.

Tension between Sunnis and Shi’ites has been rumbling in Lebanon ever since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war but reignited after the Syria conflict erupted.

It reached its peak when former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, a Sunni, was killed in 2005. Hariri supporters accused Syria and then Hezbollah of killing him – a charge they both deny. An international tribunal accused several Hezbollah members of involvement in the murder.

Hezbollah’s political opponents, who have for months accused it of aiding Assad’s forces – have warned that its involvement in Syria could ignite sectarian tension of the civil war.

The last bombing in Beirut was in 2008 when three people were killed in an explosion which damaged a U.S. diplomatic car.

However fighting had broken out this year between supporters and opponents of Assad in the northern city of Tripoli.

Story by REUTERS- Reporting by Mariam Karouny and Oliver Holmes; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Samia Nakhoul

Photos originally posted to http://rt.com/news/beirut-lebanon-explosion-police-797/ and http://www.rightnow.io/breaking-news/beirut-downtown_bn_1350647780442.html

Funeral procession demonstration for victims of domestic violence

10 Mar

For anyone who is in Beirut today and who cares about the fact that the Lebanese government does nothing to protect women from gender-based violence, campaigners will be marching from Sassine Square at 3pm across the city. The march is organised by feminist collective Nasawiya and will be a mock funeral, with coffins being carried to represent the women killed as a result of family violence. Please come, bring friends, and wear black clothes in mourning. See you there!

 

Combatting a memory for forgetfulness

3 Jun

Sodeco’s war-weary Barakat building to be renovated
Structure to house public memorial to civil conflict
By Dalila Mahdawi
Daily Star staff
Wednesday, June 02, 2010

(NOTE: Pictures of how the building looks now and how it will be transformed will be posted shortly. Sorry for the delay)

BEIRUT: For years, architect Mona Hallak lugged a beautiful antique floor tile around Beirut, eager to show it to anyone who would spare her a few minutes of their time.

She had pinched the tile from a war-ravaged building in Beirut’s Sodeco Square that she’d lost her heart to in the 1990s.

Even in its decrepit state today, it’s not hard to see how it captivated her. The architecture of the Barakat building, an imposing yellow structure straddling Independence Avenue and the Damascus Road, is one of a kind in Lebanon.

Built by two different architects in the 1920s and 1930s, the Barakat building mixes elements of Art Deco with sweeping Islamic arches, stain glass windows and oriental balustrades. Although it is impossible to tell from outside, the four-story building actually consists of two distinct structures unified by freestanding balcony columns. “The building symbolized the whole of Beirut,” says Hallak. “It symbolized how divided the country was and how it was camouflaged as being united.”

When sectarian tensions spilled over into Civil War in 1975, the Barakat building was one of the conflict’s many casualties. It was taken over as a militia headquarters, with snipers taking advantage of commanding views from every room in the building to kill those on the streets below in relative safety.

The fighters added their own layer of architecture to the structure – concrete buttresses to fortify the walls and ceilings, sand bags, and lots of graffiti. Within a few years, the Barakat building, once a sign of liberalism, progressive thinking and cross-cultural dialogue, had been transformed into a pock-marked symbol of bitter hatred, division and ruthless killing.

When the war ended, the Barakat family hoped to cash in on the post-war construction craze and sold the building to a development company. It would have been demolished if one day in 1997, Hallak, who was passing through the area, hadn’t looked up at the building’s façade and noticed the iron railings from the balconies were missing. Hallak rushed inside to find workers preparing for demolition. “The tiles were piled in a corner ready to go and the destruction permit was hanging on the wall,” she recalls. “I never thought this building would go down … I went crazy.”

Slipping one of the tiles into her handbag, Hallak hurried to her office, rallied her colleagues and began a concerted media campaign to preserve the building.

The architect visited officials from the Culture Ministry, the governor of Beirut and foreign ambassadors hoping to find a sympathetic ear. She would pull out the filched tile and tell her audience, “this is the tile- imagine how beautiful the house is!”

After years of tireless campaigning and with the support of the Italian and French embassies, Hallak finally achieved what many had thought was impossible. Beirut Municipality revoked the demolition order and in 2003 expropriated the building.

The war-weary structure is now being renovated and converted into Beit Beirut, a museum of memory, war and contemporary history. Prime Minister Saad Hariri inaugurated the project in early April and actual restoration and construction is due to begin in October at an estimated cost of $10 million.

Its restoration and modernization is being carried out by architect Youssef Haidar, with technical assistance from the Municipality of Paris.

Once opened, Beit Beirut will be the closest thing Lebanon has to a public war memorial. Traces of the war like the fighter-built fortified walls will be preserved and incorporated as part of the museum’s permanent exhibition. “When you are there you feel the futility of war,” says Hallak. “It is exactly what a war memorial should be.”

Although Beit Beirut will chiefly be a museum, it will be “much more” than that, says Haidar. He hopes the building will help the Lebanese confront and reconcile their painful past.

The revamped Barakat building will connect to a new edifice built on an adjacent lot through a large spiral staircase, with both structures boasting state-of-the-art solar power systems. Just as the Lebanese themselves should be, says Haidar, the building will look firmly into the future while paying tribute to its past. “We are dealing with the building as if it is a war wounded that is starting to heal again,” says Haidar. “These traces cannot be erased, they are like scars.”

The museum will have an auditorium for lectures and workshops for young people on issues relating to memory, history and war- issues Haidar says have not been addressed at all in Lebanon.

“We went from amnesty to amnesia,” he says. “It’s important that at Beit Beirut, we can make a start in order to be able to say ‘never again.’”

Hallak envisions Beit Beirut as a living museum where visitors can interact and contribute to building up knowledge about their city. She’s put forth a proposal to have a “Beirut for Everybody” section on the ground floor, where locals can bring in and exhibit anything from their grandmother’s traditional Beiruti recipes to old cinema tickets. “We want to create a relationship between the city and the museum,” she says.

In addition to a permanent installation of personal items collected from the building, Beit Beirut will also host rotating exhibitions by artists, architects and urban planners on themes relating to the war, public space and contemporary history.

“It will be a place that will teach Beirutis to love their city,” says Hallak. “We don’t love our city because we don’t know it.”

Haidar and Hallak also hope the success of the project will encourage municipalities across Lebanon to preserve other traditional buildings as Beit Beiruts.

“There are other buildings that can be worked in this way,” Haidar says. “We don’t want to just reduce the idea to this one building.”

Although pleased with the renovations, Hallak has one minor criticism: she wishes a large ficus tree outside the Barakat building hadn’t been chopped back.

Only a few feet tall when the war broke out in 1975, the tree had grown several stories high by the 1990s.

“The tree was the memory of the war,” says Hallak. “That would have been the most romantic way to remember the war – with life.”

Ethiopian Airlines flight “crashes” off Beirut coast

25 Jan

This morning I was woken up by the roar of thunder. The weather here often seems to carry messages. Minutes later I checked my mobile phone to find this  message: Ethiopian Airlines flight crashes off Beirut, 82 passengers and 8 crew missing.

Lebanese aviation officials reportedly lost contact with the plane about five minutes after its departure from Beirut early Monday morning, with eyewitnesses claiming to have seen a ball of fire explode in the air before the plane crashed into the Mediterranean Sea. Families of the missing have begun gathering at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport to wait for news as rescue teams are dispatched. Several bodies have already allegedly been recovered.  Plane wreckage appears to have been found 20 kilometers south of the Beirut coast line. Stormy weather will no doubt hamper rescue efforts.

A list of the passengers (names and date of birth) can be found here (in Arabic): http://www.scribd.com/doc/25749265/Passengers

According to early reports, the wife of French Ambassor to Lebanon Denis Pietton, Marla Sanzhez, was among those aboard the plane.

A message on the Ethiopian Airlines website reads:

T-409 Incident – 25 January, 2010

Ethiopian flight ET-409 scheduled to operate from Beirut to Addis Ababa on January 25th lost contact with the Lebanese air controllers shortly after take off. The flight departed at 02:35 Lebanese time from Beirut International Airport.

Flight ET-409 carries 82 passenger plus 8 Ethiopian Crew members. Out of the total passengers 23 are Ethiopian, 51 Lebanese, 1 Turkish, 1 French, 2 British, 1 Russian, 1 Canadian, 1 Syrian, 1 Iraqi nationals.

A team is already working on gathering all pertinent information. An investigative team has already been dispatched to the scene and we will release further information as further updates are received.

For more information please contact our emergency call center at:

+251 11 517 8766, +251 91 150 1248, +251 91 125 5577, +251 91 120 3412 or our toll free number +251 11 662 0062

In Lebanon’s Christian district, March 14 holds the cards

8 Jun

BEIRUT: Constituents in  Beirut I, a predominantly Christian district, crowded into polling stations on Sunday to elect five candidates to join the country’s next parliament. As The Daily Star went to press Sunday night, exit polls showed the March 14 coalition winning a clean sweep in the district, with voter turnout estimated at 44 percent.

Twenty candidates, ten of whom were Independents, battled for the seats covering the areas of Achrafieh, Rmeil and Saifi. The March 14 list of Nayla Tueni (Orthodox), Serge Torsarkissian (Armenian Catholic), Jean Ogassapian (Armenian Orthodox), Michel Pharaoun (Catholic) and Nadim Gemayel (Maronite), stood against Issam Abu Jamra (Orthodox), Vreij Sabounjian (Armenian Orthodox), Gregoire Kaloust (Armenian Catholic), Nicholas Sehnaoui (Catholic) and Massoud Al-Ashkar (Maronite) of the March 8 coalition. Two of the district’s seats will go to Armenian candidates, with one each going to Orthodox, Maronite and Catholic candidates.

Supporters of the Armenian Tashnag party, which is allied with March 8, took to the polls in particular force in the early morning hours, with convoys of cars bearing the party emblem and Armenian flag dropping off entire families outside polling stations. According to exit polls, 31,500 people in Beirut I voted, among them 6,700 Armenians.

Hagob Norunzayan, 42, got up early to vote for the March 8 ticket. The Armenians were coming “back from all over the world just to vote,” he said, denying allegations that they received cash to vote.

Hagob Norunzayan, 42, got up early to vote for the March 8 ticket. The Armenians were coming “back from all over the world just to vote,” he said, denying allegations that they received cash to vote.

“We want to live in a strong Lebanon. We will win,” he added optimistically.

Former US President Jimmy Carter was in Achrafieh Sunday to observe the voting.

Talking to reporters at the Zahrat al-Ihsan School polling station, Carter said he hoped Lebanon’s parties and foreign supporters would accept the election results.

“I don’t have any concerns over the conduct of the elections,” he said. “I have concerns over the acceptance of the results by all the major parties.”

Nadim Gemayel of the Christian Phalange party was seen midday touring the Rmeil II polling station in Achrafieh. “We saw a great evolution among the people,” he said of his electoral campaign. “We succeeded in making people vote against the weapons of Hizbullah. I am confident about my list: 5-0.”

Former LBC journalist May Chidiac cast her vote in Achrafieh’s Rmeil I polling station. Chidiac survived a 2005 assassination attempt that many blamed on pro-Syrian groups. She called Christian voters who support “pro-Syrian” and “pro-Iranian” candidates “misled.”

Hizbullah poster: My land is worth more than gold

Hizbullah poster: My land is worth more than gold

Constituents were “voting for their identity …We want a free, independent Lebanon,” she said. “Lebanon is a mixture of things, but we want it to be a pro-Occidental country.”

March 14 candidate Nayla Tueni later made an appearance at the same polling station, dressed casually in jeans and a t-shirt. The 26-year-old Tueni, deputy general director of Lebanon’s popular daily An-Nahar and the daughter of assassinated MP and journalist Gebran Tueni, has been called inexperienced by rivals. “It’s amazing people came so numerous,” she told The Daily Star in reference to the high turnout. “They want a change.”

At a number of polling stations, old men and women cast their ballots after being carried up several flights of stairs by relatives or able-bodied onlookers.

The Lebanese Physical Handicapped Union sent a complaint to the Interior Ministry lamenting the difficulties disabled people faced in accessing polling stations, often situated on the second or third floors.

Several March 14 and March 8 supporters interviewed at different polling stations said that they were voting to define Lebanon’s relations with the international community.

“Foreign policy is the most important element of this election,” said a 31-year-old March 14 supporter who did not wished to be identified.

“I believe in their foreign policy, they’re going to deal with how outside powers will deal with Lebanon,” he said of the rival coalitions.

Sandy T., 21, meanwhile said Aoun’s alliance with Hizbullah had prevented further sectarian violence in the country. “If he hadn’t made the alliance, there would be big problems between the different religions,” she said.

“We believe in what he and [Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan] Nasrallah say, and in what they can do to change Lebanon,” she added.

After voting, partisans sought refuge from Sunday’s blistering heat, eating sandwiches and chocolate bars packed in special lunchboxes bearing the logos of their preferred political party.

Although polling in Beirut I was largely peaceful, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) broke up a fight in the early afternoon at the Ali Abi Taleb High School polling station, LBC Television reported.

The high school was the only polling station for the constituency’s minority Sunni and Shiite residents.

An 85-year-old male voter reportedly died of a heart attack before casting his ballot.

According to OTV, four people were taken to hospital after fainting in the highly congested polling stations of the Zahret al-Ihsan and Tabaris schools.

Lebanese Armed Forces troops patrolled Achrafieh’s Sassine Square and detained a number of individuals after clashes broke out over party flags Sunday evening.

Despite the minor skirmishes, an election observer who wished to remain anonymous said the one-day elections had been “relatively tranquil.”

The observer nevertheless pointed to several violations, including several senior political figures and candidates campaigning inside the polling stations, defying a rule that they must stay at least 75 meters away from the polls.

“They were going around the polling station to try to rally the troops, shaking hands,” the observer said, adding that the incident was reported to the Interior Ministry.

Poor crowd control and incidences of intimidation within polling stations in Beirut I also occurred, said the observer.