BEIRUT (AP) — Hundreds of protesters clashed Wednesday with Lebanese security forces in a Beirut suburb near the U.S. Embassy during demonstrations in support of both Gaza’s civilian residents and the militant group Hamas in its war with Israel.
The protest in the Aukar neighborhood came as U.S. President Joe Biden made a show of solidarity with Israel during his visit there Wednesday, a day after an explosion at a Gaza Strip hospital killed hundreds of people and prompted mass protests.
Biden offered his assessment that the explosion was not the result of a strike by the Israeli military. The Palestinian group Hamas, which rules Gaza, and many Arab countries accuse Israel of striking the hospital, while the Israeli military claims it was a misfired rocket from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group in Gaza.
Demonstrators holding Palestinian flags and the flags of various Palestinian factions took down a security wall and cut a barbed wire barrier on a winding road that leads to the U.S. Embassy outside of Beirut.
Riot police lobbed dozens of teargas canisters and fired water canons to disperse the protesters, eventually pushing them back. Several protesters were injured.
Meanwhile, in a southern suburb of Beirut, the Hezbollah group, a key ally of Hamas, held its own rally Wednesday. Thousands of Hezbollah supporters and Palestinians waving Palestinian flags protested against the explosion at the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza the day before.
“The time has perhaps come for the peoples of the region to declare their word in the face of American tyranny,” senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine said in a speech at the rally.
Chanting “death to America,” protesters burned an American flag in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza, where the violence has left more than 3,000 people dead since Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7, leaving more than 1,000 people dead or kidnapped.
Hezbollah and Israel have clashed along the Lebanon-Israel border, though the skirmishes remain mostly contained along a handful of border towns. The militant group announced another death among its ranks Wednesday, its 11th since the conflict began.
Israel has threatened to aggressively retaliate should Hezbollah escalate, while Hezbollah has promised to do the same should Israel decide to launch a ground incursion into Gaza.
As the clashes continue, Saudi Arabia became the latest country to ask its citizens to leave the tiny Mediterranean country of Lebanon. The U.S. State Department warned its citizens not to come and urged those in the country to “make appropriate arrangements to leave,” while commercial flights are still available.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Lebanese Red Cross collected the bodies and remains of four slain Hezbollah militants, a spokesperson for the group told The Associated Press.
An Associated Press photojournalist saw the three bodies and bag of remains transferred from the Lebanese Red Cross to Hezbollah’s Islamic Health Unit at the Hiram Hospital near the southern city of Tyre.
The Hezbollah spokesperson said the bodies belonged to militants whose deaths were announced the day before, without giving additional details. Hezbollah announced the death of five of its fighters Tuesday. The spokesperson commented on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
It was unclear why there was a 24-hour delay in collecting the bodies.
The initial death announcement came hours after the Israeli military announced they had killed four militants near the border carrying an explosive device in what they suspected was an attempted cross-border operation.
They did not accuse any group of the attempted operation, nor did any group claim responsibility.
Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue contributed to this report.