Hizbullah on the move after Gemayel assassination

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The mother Joyce Gemayel, left, father Amin Gemayel, center, and wife Patricia Gemayel walk behind the coffin of Pierre Gemayel as it is carried to the family home in Bikfaya, Lebanon on Nov. 22. AP/Ben Curtis
NICOSIA The anti-Syrian Industry Minister was assassinated in Beirut yesterday, as the Iran-backed Hizbullah mounted violent demonstrations demanding greater control over the government.

Gemayel, a Maronite Christian and the son of a former president of Lebanon, was the fifth anti-Syrian figure to be killed since late 2004 in a campaign said to be directed by Syrian intelligence.

Unidentified gunmen shot and killed Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel in the first major political assassination since the death of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005.

The government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora blamed Syrian President Bashir Assad for the assassination on Tuesday.

Lebanese government sources said Hizbullah was said to be facilitating the assassinations in an attempt to block the establishment of an international tribunal that would prosecute those behind the Harari assassination.

The assassination, which sparked Christian unrest, took place as Hizbullah was preparing massive and violent protests against the Siniora government. The Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah, which coordinates with Syria, has demanded one-third of the seats in the Lebanese Cabinet.

Hours after the assassination, gunmen fired toward an office of another Lebanese minister. Nobody was reported injured.

"We believe the hand of Syria is all over the place," said Lebanese parliamentary faction leader Saad Hariri, the son of the late prime minister.

Over the last few months, the government has launched an effort to bolster Lebanon's military and security services. The European Union and the United States have offered Beirut hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus weapons platforms and training.

"We will not let the murderers control the fate of Lebanon and the future of its children," Siniora said.

Gemayel, 34, was the son of former President Amin Gemayel, who served from 1982 to 1988. Officials said Gemayel's convoy was ambushed by two jeeps in a Christian area of Beirut, and the minister was shot three times in the head.

Two of Gemayel's bodyguards were also killed in the attack. Lebanese sources said at least 24 shots were fired by at least two assassins, who traveled in a jeep that contained forged license plates.

"They [Syrians] might kill another minister," Druse leader and parliamentarian Walid Jumblatt said. "This is very possible and very plausible. The only thing Bashar Assad is scared of is an indictment by the tribunal."

Copyright 2006 East West Services, Inc.

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