Christian suburb of the capital Beirut on Tuesday, November 21, raising fears of renewed civil strife in the troubled region.

Witnesses said at least three gunmen ambushed Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, ramming his car before opening fire.  Television footage showed Gemayel’s wrecked car, which apparently had been shot at from both sides.

Gemayel’s driver, who was wounded but survived, rushed the gravely injured politician to a nearby hospital, news reports said. Soon afterward, Voice of Lebanon – the Christian-run radio station – reported Gemayel was dead – the fifth member of his family to die in violence.

His death came as a shock for Christians in Lebanon, who witnessed several deadly and near deadly attacks against politicians and journalists expressing criticism towards Syria. Gemayel was a Maronite Christian and a member of the anti-Syrian bloc that rules the Lebanese parliament. 


His killing came at an especially tense time in Beirut, when tensions are running high in the wake of the devastating war between Israel and Hezbollah earlier this year. 

Pro-Syrian Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has called for street protests aimed at toppling the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, whom he accused of having allegiance to the United States. 

Siniora’s supporters say that Hezbollah and its allies want greater political power on behalf of neighboring Syria and are trying to undermine the formation of an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005.
However speaking on national television in a speech that seemed to underscore growing tensions,  Siniora made clear he would not be intimidated and promised to search for those responsible for Tuesday’s assassination. “ I pledge to you that your blood will not go in vain,” he said remembering Gemayel. “We will not let the murderers control the fate of Lebanon and the future of its children."


The 34-year-old Gemayel was the youngest member of the Lebanese parliament and the grandson of the founder of Lebanon’s Christian Phalangist Party. His political ancestry is rooted in the right-wing Maronite Christian party, the Phalange. In New York, the assassination of Gemayel overshadowed a previously scheduled United Nations Security Council meeting on the Middle East.

It reportedly gave new urgency to negotiations that have been dragging on for days on how to endorse a special tribunal to try suspects in the February 2005 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the Voice of America (VOA) reported.

As he entered the Council chamber, Washington’s UN Ambassador John Bolton called Pierre Gemayel’s murder a "terrorist assassination." He said it highlights the need for immediate action to create an international tribunal for Lebanon.

"We have to support the democratic forces in Lebanon against this politically motivated assassination," he said. "This is not a way to change a government. It shows why we need to establish a tribunal as soon as possible." President Bush denounced the assassination as an attempt to intimidate Siniora’s government.


"We support the Siniora government and its democracy and we support the Lebanese people’s desire to live in peace," Bush told media in Honolulu following his recent trip to Asia.

"And we support their efforts to defend their democracy against attempts by Syria, Iran and allies to foment instability and violence in that important country," Bush added.

There are fears the assassination could bring the country a step closer towards a  conflict similar as the 1975-1990 civil war in which at least over 100,000 people died. (With reports from Lebanon).    


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