From the pan-Arab Al-Bawaba, Nov. 22:
Lebanon started three days of mourning on Wednesday following the assassination of an anti-Syrian Christian cabinet minister that his allies blamed on Damascus. Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel was assassinated as he drove in a Christian suburb of Beirut on Tuesday.
Gemayel’s casket draped in a Phalange party flag was taken to his Bikfaya hometown in the mountains northeast of Beirut Wednesday morning, where hundreds of family, friends and supporters were gathered.
The murder is expected to intensify tensions between the anti-Syrian government and the pro-Damascus opposition led by Hizbullah.
Gemayel was among cabinet members who voted last week to tentatively approve the U.N. plans for to establish a special international court to try suspects over ex-Premier Rafic Hariri’s murder. The U.N. Security Council late on Tuesday approved the creation of the international tribunal to try suspects not just in Hariri’s assassination but also in 14 other attacks on Lebanese foes to Syria.
The Security Council also “unequivocally” denounced Gemayel’s killing.
A profile on Pierre Gemayal from the UAE’s GulfNews:
Pierre Gemayel was first elected to parliament in 2005 and was believed to be the youngest legislator in the legislature.
He came from a prominent family of politicians.
His father, Amin, served as president between 1982 and 1988 and his grandfather, the late Pierre Gemayel, led the right-wing Christian Phalanage Party that fielded the largest Christian militia during the 1975-90 civil war between Christians and Muslims.
Amin Gemayel is the current leader of the party.
Pierre was a rising star in the party and expected to carry the mantle of the political family to the next generation.
The assassination comes just as Hezbollah is gearing up for a campaign of street protests. From Xinhua, Nov. 21:
Lebanese Hezbollah and pro-Syrian allies have mobilized for mass street protests to topple incumbent government led by Prime Minister Fouad Seniora, the Naharnet news website reported on Tuesday.
Former parliament member Abdul Rahim Mrad, a pro-Syrian, was quoted as saying that Hezbollah and allied factions have set the date and venue for street protests, but refused to elaborate.
“We are going to witness street protests in the very near future,” Mrad said on Monday after a meeting of a coalition of opposition groups, including Hezbollah and General Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement.
“There has to be street protests … in hopes of convincing the ruling majority the need for the government’s resignation to pave the way for a national unity government,” Mrad said.
Political crisis blew up in full force in Lebanon following the resignation of six pro-Syrian ministers, two from Hezbollah, after all-party roundtable talks collapsed earlier this month.
The crisis took a sharp turn for the worse after the cabinet, without the Syrian-backed ministers, approved on Nov. 13 a UN draft document for the creation of an international tribunal on the case of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s killing.
The opposition parties dismissed the cabinet’s move and called for its resignation, while the anti-Syrian ruling parliamentary majority accuses Hezbollah and Amal, the main pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian Shiite groups, of doing Damascus’ and Tehran’s bidding and seeking to undermine the formation of the tribunal.
See our last post on Lebanon.