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New Year in Lebanon marred by 'horror night' of mayhem from celebratory gunfire

A Syrian refugee was killed as gunfire rang out across Lebanon, considered a popular way to mark festive occasions
Aerial view of a partially completed 300sq m Lebanese national flag made up from plastic bottles, caps and empty bullet cartridges in northern Lebanon, 21 November 2020 (AFP)

New Year celebrations in Lebanon were marred by what local media said was a "horror night," after celebratory gunfire left a Syrian woman dead and damaged an aeroplane.

Lebanese authorities could do little to prevent the barrage of festive gunshots that rang out across the country on Thursday night, a popular way to mark occasions such as weddings, funerals and graduations.

The Syrian refugee died "after being wounded in the head by a stray bullet" that landed in a refugee camp in the eastern town of Baalbek, according to the National News Agency.

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Meanwhile, in an unconnected event, an aircraft belonging to Middle East Airlines was damaged by gunfire while parked on the tarmac at Beirut airport. It happened after people in southern Beirut had fired in the air in celebration.

A Middle East Airlines spokesperson told AFP that the Airbus A321, only delivered last year, would need to be repaired. All other planes had been undamaged and were able to take off as scheduled, the source said.

In the run-up to New Year's Eve celebrations, Lebanese security forces had taken to social media to warn of the danger of firing shots in the air.

Lebanon24 reported gunfire coming from rooftops and that in some areas even rockets had been launched.

Officially, celebratory gunfire is illegal in Lebanon, where firearm ownership remains widespread three decades after the end of its 1975-1990 civil war.

In September, Lebanese footballer Mohamed Atwi died after being injured the previous month by a stray bullet.