SAT 14 - 12 - 2019
 
Date: Nov 14, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
Alaa Abou Fakher to be laid to rest Thursday
Lebanon on slippery slope as tensions escalate
Joseph Haboush| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Details of the dispute that led to the killing of Alaa Abou Fakher late Tuesday night have emerged.

Abou Fakher, a 38-year-old father of three, was allegedly shot in the head and killed by a member of the Lebanese Army, after he attempted to block a road in Khaldeh, south of Beirut.

The man who allegedly shot Abou Fakher has been identified as Col. Nidal Daou from Bshetfine, Chouf. Daou is a member of the Army’s Mount Lebanon Intelligence Branch, according to a security source.

Daou was driving a car in which Charbel Hjeil, also a member of the Army, was a passenger. A roadblock was placed in front of them and protesters refused to let the vehicle pass. This escalated into a verbal argument between Abou Fakher and Daou. A physical altercation ensued. Four shots were fired into the air in an attempt to disperse the protesters, the source said.

The Army released a statement late Tuesday saying that one of the soldiers fired into the air, and that one person had been hit by a bullet.

The security source confirmed that Abou Fakher and Daou were relatives and “knew each other very well.”

Abou Fakher was married and was a member of the Progressive Socialist Party and the Choueifat Municipality. He will be laid to rest Thursday at 1 p.m. in Choueifat’s Amrousieh.

In a tweet, U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis urged a “thorough & rapid investigation of the incident.”

“Disturbed by the events last night, the tragic loss of life in Khalde,” Kubis said. He also called for security forces to continue “protecting the peaceful protesters, to keep refraining from using force.”

Condolences will be accepted from 4-7 p.m. at the Abou Fakher Hall in the Aley town of Qobbeih.

While accepting condolences Wednesday, Abou Fakher’s wife called on all Lebanese to head to the streets. “No one should remain in their homes,” she shouted, weeping. “I want to be a martyr of the revolution too,” she added.

Abou Fakher’s wife said she would remain present at the protests “because this is what he would have wanted.”

Abou Fakher’s mother said she was proud of her son and lambasted politicians in the country for clinging onto their seats.

Candlelit vigils were held across the country Wednesday at the Chevrolet intersection and in Khaldeh, Sidon, Nabatieh, Tripoli and other cities. A Mass was held north of Beirut in Jal al-Dib in his honor and protesters raised his picture during demonstrations.

Lebanon on slippery slope as tensions escalate

Emily Lewis & Sahar Houri| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Tensions escalated significantly Wednesday as armed men allegedly linked to the Free Patriotic Movement took to the streets north of Beirut and one opened fire toward protesters.

On the 28th consecutive day of mass demonstrations against the ruling class, dozens of protesters closed the main internal road in Jal al-Dib, angering local residents and leading to a brief fight.

A small group of men descended on the protesters armed with knives and sticks. At least three people were wounded as both sides hurled stones at each other.

Shortly after, a man approached the demonstrators with his car before getting out and shooting an assault rifle in their direction.

He put his weapon back in the vehicle and protesters accosted him shortly after, beating him to the ground before security forces arrested him at the scene.

Protesters also set upon his car with sticks and rocks.

Many demonstrators claimed the attackers belonged to the Free Patriotic Movement. This claim appeared to be confirmed after men who had been involved in the incident were escorted by the Army out of the local mayor’s office a few hours later, holding up forefinger and thumb to make the FPM’s signature “tick” hand signal.

President Michel Aoun, the founder of the FPM, gave a televised interview Tuesday in which he called for protesters to return to their homes.

Roadblocks sprang up all over the country Tuesday night after his remarks, which many protesters described as “provocative,” and continued throughout Wednesday.

The Army deployed following the Jal al-Dib incident and reopened the internal road that had been blocked by burning tires.

Since the start of the protests, demonstrators have intermittently blocked the main Jal al-Dib highway, but Wednesday saw them cut off the key inside road completely.

One of the more notable scenes was near the presidential palace in Baabda, where hundreds gathered to reject Aoun’s comments.

Local media reported that a member of the Presidential Guard relayed a message to the protesters from Aoun that he was ready to meet a delegation immediately. But the protesters refused, saying they could not choose four people to speak on behalf of all of those on the streets, and that the president had to hear all of them.

Others called on the president to order the opening of the road leading to Baabda Palace so that they could all meet with him. Brief scuffles broke out between security forces and protesters as they tried to remove the metal barriers and barbed wire. Many had set up tents on the main road in the evening, with the apparent intention of remaining overnight.

Elsewhere, thousands gathered at locations across the country to express their outrage and condolences after the killing of a man in Khaldeh late Tuesday night.

Alaa Abou Fakher was shot dead by a soldier during protests on the main highway that connects Beirut to south Lebanon following a “verbal altercation” and “scuffle” with soldiers, according to an Army statement.

A mural was painted on a wall in Tripoli’s Al-Nour Square that depicted Abou Fakher’s face and his wife shielding the eyes of his son. Both were present when he was killed.

Protesters at Beirut’s Chevrolet intersection arranged candles to spell out the words “Alaa, Revolution, Lebanon” and laid a wreath on the road in honor him. Abou Fakher will be laid to rest Thursday.

Thousands more gathered at the site of his killing in Khaldeh to pay their respects, and flowers and candles were placed in the shape of Lebanon. His coffin, draped in the national flag, was later carried through Downtown Beirut, accompanied by a procession of hundreds of mourners.

Protesters then lit a large bonfire at the entrance to the “banks street” in Riad al-Solh Square.

Banks were closed across the country Wednesday and will continue to be closed Thursday. Schools and universities were also closed Wednesday. Caretaker Education Minister Akram Chehayeb did not release a statement on closures for Thursday before The Daily Star went to print. However, a number of major universities, including the American University of Beirut, the Lebanese American University and Saint Joseph University announced that classes would be suspended.

Earlier in the day, major roads across the country were blocked with parked cars, burning tires and rubble. Protesters blocked the highway north of Beirut at Nahr al-Kalb and Ghazir and the highway south of Beirut at Khaldeh. A long line of cars queued up ahead of the Nahr al-Kalb tunnel, with many drivers were visibly frustrated. In the evening, protesters clashed with soldiers after they tried to build a brick wall at the tunnel’s entrance.

Roads in Barr Elias and Al-Marj in the Bekaa Valley, in addition to Tripoli’s southern entrance and roads in Akkar, were also blocked by burning tires.

In Sidon, protesters set off from Elia Square Wednesday, bringing the heat of the 4-week-old demonstrations back to the city.

The Elia intersection, where a number of activists set up tents and stayed overnight, was blocked despite Army deployment.

In Beirut, the “Ring Bridge” and the Chevrolet intersection were also blocked by protesters.

“Thanks Aoun, you returned us to the streets,” graffiti on the “Ring Bridge” read. Demonstrators decided later to open the overpass, which connects east and west Beirut.

South of the city, protesters gathered in the Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium area and burned tires.

The uprising that started Oct. 17 has called for the resignation of the government and the formation of a technocratic Cabinet, in addition to early parliamentary elections and an early end to Aoun’s now 3-year-old presidential term. - Additional reporting by Mohammed Zaatari in Sidon


 
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