BEIRUT — Clashes erupted today near the Iranian embassy in Beirut between protesters opposed to Hezbollah's participation in the Syrian war and unidentified locals, killing one demonstrator, a senior Lebanese military official said.
The official identified the man killed as a 28-year-old from the small Lebanese Option Party which had called for the anti-Hezbollah protest. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
A military statement said the protesters had barely arrived to the embassy area when clashes broke out and a civilian opened fire. The embassy is located in Bir Hassan, a predominantly pro-Hezbollah area.
The official National News Agency said the army had quickly deployed and cordoned off the area of the clashes in south Beirut. The private Al-Jadeed Lebanese TV said another female protester was also injured in the melee.
The station's reporter at the hospital said the protester who died had been shot twice in the leg, once in the back, and was hit on the head with a baton.
The protest at the embassy coincided with another small rally in downtown Beirut, also criticizing Hezbollah's military intervention in Syria's conflict. In Beirut's central Martyrs Square, a large banner read: "Rejecting Hezbollah's fighting in Syria."
Dozens of protesters, including many Syrians, chanted against the militant group's participation in the conflict, warning that it would bring the conflict to Lebanon.
"Those fighting in Syria are not Lebanese. Their culture, their flag, money and weapons are Iranians," Saleh el-Mashnouk, an ardent critic of Hezbollah told the crowd in the square. "We are here to wipe the shame that hit Lebanon because of them."
Lebanese protester Samara el-Hariri, 31, said Syria's war is hurting Lebanon's economy and increasing sectarian tension. "My country is stricken," she said.
Hezbollah's overt participation in the fighting in Syria has increasingly heightened political and sectarian tensions in Lebanon. Sectarian clashes in north Lebanon have intensified since Hezbollah said last month it would side with Syria's President Bashar Assad until he defeats the rebels who seek his removal. Both the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, and its most important patron, Iran, have strongly backed Syria's Assad.
Fighters from Hezbollah helped Syrian forces in an offensive against the rebel-held town of Qusair for nearly three weeks until they finally overran it this week. The victory was a significant one for Assad's regime.
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