People flee their houmes after heavy clashes in the coastal town of Khaldeh, south of Beirut, Lebanon, on August 1, 2021. Image Credit: AP

Beirut: At least five people including three Hezbollah members were killed south of Beirut on Sunday when a funeral procession for a party member was ambushed, a Lebanese security source told AFP.

Several people were wounded in the exchange of fire in the Khaldeh area between members of the Lebanese militant group and Sunni residents, the source said.

The funeral was for a Hezbollah man killed the night before, the source added.

Hezbollah in a statement appealed to the army and security forces to arrest those behind the “ambush”, which it said killed two people among the funeral procession.

Army deployed in Khaldeh area after heavy clashes. Image Credit: AP

A military source told AFP the army had deployed in force to the area and sent reinforcements.

The army said in a statement that soldiers would “open fire on all armed men on the streets of Khalde” and in response to any other shootings.

The state-run National News Agency said Hezbollah member Ali Shebli was killed at point-blank range at a wedding on Saturday night in Khalde, in an apparent revenge killing for the deaths of two people last year in the same area.

Prime minister-designate Najib Mikati appealed for “restraint” and warned against confessional “discord”.

A car destroyed in the clashes. Image Credit: AP

Tensions between Sunnis and Shiites often run high in multi-confessional Lebanon.

The violence comes as Lebanon faces an economic crisis branded by the World Bank as one of the world’s worst since the mid-19th century.

The country is grappling with soaring poverty, a plummeting currency and shortages of basic items from medicines to fuel.

It has been without a government for almost a year after the cabinet resigned in the wake of a catastrophic explosion at Beirut’s port last August 4.

Lebanon has been mired in political instability since a nationwide protest movement broke out in late 2019, demanding an end to the system of confessional power-sharing that it said rewarded corruption and incompetence.