Graphic content / A civil defence member (L) rushes to fighters from Shia Hezbollah and Amal movements as they remove the body and a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher of a fallen comrade amidst clashes in the area of Tayouneh, in the southern suburb of the capital Beirut, on October 14, 2021. AFP
Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi told a press conference that the death toll had climbed to six.
He said that some of the victims where shot in the head.
The deaths include a 24-year-old woman who was hit in the head by a stray bullet while inside her home, a doctor at the Sahel hospital in Beirut's southern suburbs told AFP.
The Lebanese Red Cross put the number of wounded at at least 30.
AFP correspondents in the area heard heavy gunfire.
Lebanese television broadcast images of men carrying rifles and heavy weaponry.
The protest outside the Justice Palace was called for by the powerful Hezbollah group and its allies who are demanding the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar.
It was not immediately clear what triggered the gunfire, but tensions were high along a former civil war front-line between Muslim Shia and Christian areas.
The right wing Christian Lebanese Forces mobilized supporters Wednesday evening after Hezbollah and its allies called for the protest at the Justice Palace, located in a Christian area. Videos circulating on social media showed supporters of the Christian Lebanese Forces marching in the streets, carrying large crosses.
A journalist with The Associated Press saw one man open fire with a pistol during the protest, as well as gunmen shooting in the direction of protesters from the balcony of a building. At least two men were seen injured and bleeding. The army deployed heavily and sent patrols to the area to search for the gunmen, following the exchanges of gunfire between the Muslim and Christian sides of the capital.
In a statement, Prime Minister Najib Mikati appealed for calm and urged people ``not to be dragged into civil strife.''
The army reported "bursts of gunfire in the area of Tayouneh - Badaro".
"The army rushed to cordon off the area and deploy in its neighbourhoods and their entrance. Patrols started as did the search for the shooters to detain them," it said.
In a follow-up statement, the military warned that it would open fire at anyone firing live rounds, calling on civilians to evacuate the area.
Hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrates that had been improperly stored at a port warehouse detonated on August 4, 2020, killing at least 215 people, injuring thousands and destroying parts of nearby neighborhoods. It was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history and has further devastated the country already roiled by political divisions and unprecedented economic and financial meltdown.
Bitar, the second judge to lead the complicated investigation, has come up against formidable opposition from Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah group and its allies who accuse him of singling out politicians for questioning, most of them allied with Hezbollah.
None of Hezbollah's officials have so far been charged in the 14-month-old investigation.
The armed clash could derail the country's month-old government even before it begins tackling Lebanon's unprecedented economic crisis.
A Cabinet meeting was canceled Wednesday after Hezbollah demanded urgent government action against the judge. One Hezbollah-allied minister said he and other Cabinet members would stage a walkout if Bitar isn't removed.