Fears of civil unrest in Lebanon grew, with the assassination of another politician, Industry Minister Pierre Gemayal. Anti-Syrian protestors took to the streets, furious at the fourth such death in 18 months and fearful it heralded a wave of sectarian bloodletting. The death shook the government, at a time when the anti-Syrian ruling majority and the pro-Damascus opposition, led by Hezbollah, are at loggerheads.
A Christian politician and outspoken critic of Syria, Gemayel came from a political family. He was the son and nephew of previous Lebanese Presidents. He was killed in a gun attack near Beirut on Tuesday. The authorities said at least three gunmen rammed their car into his vehicle, leapt out and sprayed it with bullets. Gemayal died from his wounds in hospital.
Parliamentary majority leader, Saad al-Hariri, himself the son of murdered former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, was quoted as saying “the hand of Syria” was behind the death.
But Damascus condemned the killing. Despite calls by Gemayal’s family for calm, security forces are on full alert in Beirut to guard against potential clashes.