Gunman opens fire outside US embassy in Beirut

Roads leading to the area from Dbayeh and Awkar have been closed following the attack, Lebanese army says

Powered by automated translation

At least one gunman opened fire outside the US embassy in Beirut on Wednesday morning, Lebanese security officials told The National.

“At 8.34am local time, small arms fire was reported in the vicinity of the entrance to the US embassy. Thanks to the quick reaction of the LAF, ISF, and our embassy security team, our facility and our team are safe,” the US embassy said.

It said investigations were under way and that US officials are in close contact with their Lebanese counterparts.

One private embassy guard was slightly injured in the incident, a Lebanese security source told The National.

One security official said there were three gunmen, although this was not immediately publicly confirmed.

A video of the incident circulated on social media showed a man wearing a military-style black vest and helmet holding an assault rifle as gunshots rang out.

The video appeared to have been filmed from inside a shop across the street from the embassy.

The Lebanese Armed Forces said the gunman was a Syrian who was wounded in the shoot-out and taken to hospital.

Another suspect was later arrested in the Bekaa Valley, which neighbours Syria, as security forces carried out raids on the village of Majdal Anjar. He was identified as the brother of the first man who was detained at the scene.

“Army members in the area responded to the sources of fire, wounding the shooter. He was arrested and transferred to a hospital for treatment,” the army said.

“We won’t know what his motivations were, who he was with, or if it was planned, until after we investigate and look into his background,” a security source told The National.

The Lebanese army said it had sent more units to the US embassy in the Awkar district and is conducting an inspection of the surrounding area.

Local media reported that the gunfight lasted for almost half an hour.

In the video, a witness could be heard saying, “He’s been shooting at the embassy for a while now, no one has stopped him. He’s just walking up and down.”

Shortly after, the gunman comes into full frame as he shoots at an army lorry speeding by before he runs away. He hides behind a parked car, where security forces apparently engage him in a shoot-out off-screen.

“They're shooting at him but they're not able to get him,” said a voice behind the camera.

Roads leading to the embassy from Dbayeh and Awkar were closed following the incident, with security personnel checking cars as they combed the area, while military vehicles passed through.

Close to one perimeter point, approximately 600 metres from the embassy, an attendant at a petrol station said that the Lebanese army rushed to the scene and quickly locked down the area after the gunshots were fired.

“Normally it's like this – quiet,” he added.

Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati spoke with an army and security service official who assured him “the situation is under control”, a statement from his office said.

“An investigation is under way to determine the circumstances of the incident and arrest all those involved,” the statement said, adding that US ambassador Lisa Johnson was currently outside Lebanon.

The embassy said it would remain closed to the public for the rest of Wednesday, but plans to be open for general business as usual on Thursday, June 6.

The embassy lies north of Beirut in a highly secured zone with multiple checkpoints along the route to the entrance. It moved there from Beirut following a suicide attack in 1983 that killed more than 60 people. The new premises were attacked in 1984.

In September 2023, shots were fired near the embassy, with no injuries reported.

In October, scores of protesters gathered outside the embassy to demonstrate in the early days of the Gaza war, and Lebanese security forces used tear gas and water cannon to disperse them.

The attack comes amid heightened tensions in the region as Israel continues its bombardment of the Gaza Strip, where more than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in the assault.

Running in parallel, Hezbollah is engaged in daily exchanges of cross-border fire with Israel in south Lebanon that began on October 8.

Updated: June 06, 2024, 9:33 AM