A man who is shot and rescued after trying to fire a rocket-propelled grenade, during a gunfire in Beirut on October 14, 2021. Image Credit: REUTERS

Cairo: Saudi Arabia has followed events in Lebanon with interest and hopes the situation stabilises as soon as possible, its foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.

Tension over an investigation into a massive blast last year in Beirut developed into the worst street violence in more than a decade on Thursday, with six Shiites shot dead and gun battles reviving memories of the country’s 1975-90 civil war.

“The Kingdom aspires for Lebanon to achieve security and peace by ending the possession and use of weapons outside the framework of the state, and for strengthening the Lebanese state for the benefit of all Lebanese,” the Saudi statement said.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah and its ally, the Shiite Amal Movement, accused the Lebanese Forces (LF), a Christian party, of attacking its supporters, who were gathering to demand the removal of the judge investigating last year’s port blast.

The LF denied any involvement and condemned the violence, which it blamed on Hezbollah “incitement” against Judge Tarek Bitar, the lead investigator into the port blast, which killed 200 people, wounded thousands and devastated swathes of Beirut.

Tensions over the port blast have contributed to Lebanon’s many troubles, including a currency collapse, hyperinflation, soaring poverty and an energy crisis leading to extended electricity blackouts.

Officials from both Shiite parties, including Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, had attacked Tarek Bitar for days, accusing him of politicizing the investigation by charging and summoning some officials and not others. They want him removed.

None of Hezbollah’s officials have so far been charged in the 14-month investigation.