Beirut clash sparks sectarian anger as an echo of civil war

His panicked father grabbed him and fled with his mother, who was just one year old. This was 46 years ago, the day that Lebanon's civil war began. The frontline was his family's Beirut apartment building.

Beirut clash sparks sectarian anger as an echo of civil war

Bahij Dagna, now 47, did the exact same thing last week. As gun battles raged outside for hours, he evacuated his wife and the two children. His mother and father, who were trapped on the lower floors, were saved by civil defense rescuers.

Dana stated, "History is repeating its self."

Thursday's battle lasted five hours between two Shiite supporters and gunmen who were believed to be Christians. It was at the border of Beirut's Chiyah neighborhood and Ain el-Rumaneh neighborhood, the same frontline that divided the capital into warring parts during Lebanon's dark civil war era.

The scenes of schoolchildren hiding under desks and gunmen on the streets triggered memories of the war. Seven people were killed in the battles. This also sparked sectarian passions that Lebanese had long forgotten about and failed to address.

The country of six million faces a crisis with a bankrupt government and hyperinflation.

As the political elite tried to stop the probe into the massive port blast last year, clashes broke out.

Despite repeated calls for calm, Shiite Hezbollah leaders and the right-wing Christian Lebanese Forces rivals continued to rage despite these pleas. They brought back civil war jargon and spoke of "neighborhood defenses" and "frontlines", intensifying the feeling that the peace pact that had kept society at peace since war is over.

Camille Hobeika (51-year-old mechanic, Christian resident of Ain el-Rumaneh) said, "We made up and now they want us to pit ourselves against each other again."

The sectarian-based warlords that fought the war have divided up political power since then, signing a pact with the government in 1989, and issuing amnesty to themselves. Although they were rivals, they shared an interest in maintaining the system. The system is rife by corruption and patronage, so they generally maintain a fragile peace.

Lebanese must deal with their legacy in a way that is respectful of their past. This was highlighted by the new fighting.

For those who witnessed the horrors of communal fighting between 1975-1990, the country is fated to this system. There are occasional acts of violence when the established political leadership attempts to rebalance the power balance.

Dana believes that the leaders use violence to their advantage. When in trouble, they create fear and encourage civil war. Each sect rallies around its chief, seeing him their only protection.

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