BEIRUT (AP) — The Lebanese military has detained two soldiers caught on camera slapping and pushing a doctor in an emergency ward at a hospital in the northern city of Tripoli, the army said Wednesday.
The video, widely circulated online, caused an uproar — particularly as the nation’s health sector struggles to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The closed-circuit TV footage from the hospital shows a group of armed soldiers cornering a doctor in scrubs in the corridors of an emergency ward. The soldiers, who appear angry, are seen slapping the doctor, then pushing him and following him into a room where they continue to slap him on the head.
Selim Abi Saleh, who heads Tripoli’s physicians union, said the attacked doctor was trying to keep the soldiers from interrogating two patients receiving urgent medical care: one was bleeding from a gunshot wound and the other was unconscious.
“We denounce this, specially at this time when doctors are doing their utmost to defend the citizen’s health and then they get attacked by the security forces who are supposed to be supporting them,” Abi Saleh, told a local radio station.
Abi Saleh told The Associated Press the incident was an “unprecedented and surprising” attack from the army against a doctor who was only doing his duty. He denounced it as “excessive use of force” and said that disciplinary action was not enough but that the soldiers should face a court martial.
The Lebanese armed forces described the incident as an “individual act” and said two soldiers were detained and an investigation was underway. Its statement said “the army leadership regrets the incident” and reiterated its respect for doctors and their work.
Lebanese authorities have reported over 950 cases of coronavirus, including 26 deaths. Following a reduction in infections, a recent jump in cases has caused renewed concerns.
Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city and its most impoverished, has seen clashes between the army and anti-government protesters in recent months as the country grapples with an unprecedented economic and financial crisis. One Tripoli protester was killed when troops opened fire to disperse a rowdy demonstration late last month. Human Rights Watch said the Lebanese military “unjustifiably used excessive, including lethal, force against protesters” in that incident.