Lebanon has begun three days of mourning for Pierre Gemayel, the murdered the anti-Syrian Christian cabinet minister. The assassination has turned Lebanon’s Independence Day into a sombre occasion. All festivities have been cancelled. Hundreds of people have gathered in the town of his birth, Bekfaya, to pay their respects at his family home before his burial tomorrow.
Gemayel was gunned down as he drove in a Christian suburb of Beirut. His allies blame Syria for killing but Damascus denies any involvement. Gemayel is the sixth anti-Syrian political to be killed in nearly two years and his death deepens the country’s political strife.
Tensions have been running high between the anti-Syrian government and the pro-Damascus opposition led by Hezbollah, the powerful Shi’ite Muslim guerrilla group. Five of its ministers have recently quit and with Gemayel’s death, two more resignations would bring down the government. The murder has drawn widespread international condemnation.
Some have called for the UN Security Council to extend the special international court so it can investigate the crime along with the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister, Rafik Hariri.