BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese Christian cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel, an outspoken critic of Syria, was assassinated near Beirut on Tuesday, security sources said. Gunmen rammed their car into Gemayel's vehicle, then leapt out and riddled it with bullets as his convoy drove through the Christian Sin el-Fil neighborhood, witnesses said. Gemayel, 34, was rushed to hospital where he later died of his wounds.Hariri, is right, of course, and though this assassination was to be expected , I take very little pleasure in being right.
Local television footage showed angry and weeping supporters gathering at the hospital.
The killing is certain to heighten tensions in Lebanon amid a deep political crisis pitting the anti-Syrian majority against the pro-Damascus opposition led by Hezbollah, which is determined to topple what it sees as a pro-U.S. government. "We believe the hand of Syria is all over the place," Saad al-Hariri, son of assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, said from Beirut shortly after Gemayel was shot dead.
"Syria strongly condemns the killing," the official Syrian news agency SANA said. Hezbollah official Ahmed Melli said the Shi'ite group also condemned it.
Gemayel, elected to parliament in 2000 and again in 2005, is the third Lebanese anti-Syrian figure to be assassinated since Hariri's killing in February 2005. Gemayel, industry minister, was a member of the Christian Phalange Party founded by his grandfather and the son of former President Amin Gemayel. His uncle Bashir Gemayel was killed in September 1982 after he was elected president during Israel's invasion of Lebanon. Pierre, like his father and late uncle, was a strong opponent of the influence of Syria, who many Lebanese blame for the assassination of former prime minister Hariri.
Hariri's son Saad, who is parliamentary majority leader, interrupted a news conference to announce the shooting of Gemayel. "They want to kill every free person," he said. U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said it was a "very sad day for Lebanon". "We were shocked by this assassination. We view it as an act of terrorism and we also view it as an act of intimidation," he said.
Anti-Syrian Christian leader Samir Geagea said on Friday efforts to topple the government could lead to assassination attempts on cabinet ministers. Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said on Tuesday his depleted cabinet was legitimate despite the resignation of six pro-Syrian ministers, and warned that any anti-government protests could turn violent. With Gemayel's death, the resignation or death of two more ministers would bring down Siniora's government.
Pro-Syrian Hezbollah and its allies are preparing to take to the streets to topple Siniora's government, which they accuse of being allied with the United States, arguing that it has lost its legitimacy since Shi'ite Muslims are no longer represented. The depleted cabinet last week approved draft U.N. statutes for a tribunal to try the killers of Hariri despite the resignations of the pro-Syrian ministers.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Lebanon Redux: 'They want to kill every free person."
Saad Hariri is quoted as saying that from this Reuters report on the assassination of Pierre Gemayel today in Lebanon:
Posted by K. Shoshana at 11:52 AM