Beirut: Hezbollah security guards attacked an Internal Security Forces (ISF) patrol on Sunday in a suburb of the southern city of Sidon.
A video clip filmed on a smart-phone that was broadcast on local television stations showed a dozen men pursuing uniformed ISF men, and assaulting another officer filming the incident separately.
That officer’s phone was smashed to pieces and he was beaten.
The original scuffle started after ISF officers grew suspicious of a car driving alongside a procession of young men commemorating Ashoura.
Shiites are in the annual 10-day mourning period (Ashura), which occurs at the beginning of the first month of the Islamic calendar, Muharram, every year. It commemorates the martyrdom of the Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
As is their practice, the ISF and Lebanese Army units are deployed throughout the country in front of mosques to provide security and, presumably, avoid acts of violence.
On Sunday, the officers fearing the worst confronted the vehicle’s two occupants. They reportedly asked for identification papers and, once they discovered a handgun in the car, demanded to see a gun licence.
An ISF spokesman confirmed that the patrol leader “thought they could be suicide bombers, which is why he approached them” and, surprisingly, saw a mob attack him and his men for trying to maintain order.
This was not an isolated incident as similar brawls occur frequently, with the ISF and Lebanese army unable to enter certain areas of southern Beirut and southern Lebanon, where Iran-backed Hezbollah handles security.
Routine patrols often escalate into verbal altercations, which is what occurred on Sunday, before a full-blown fistfight ensued.
Several bystanders joined in the attack on the ISF patrol, which allowed the two men who initiated the clash, to escape.
The interior ministry launched an investigation into the scuffle, but perpetrators are rarely prosecuted.
Many Lebanese criticise Hezbollah and their supporters for acting above the law and this recent attack is sure to fuel those claims.