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Lebanese Cabinet Member Assassinated

A Christian member of the Lebanese Cabinet, Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, was assassinated today in Beirut, Lebanon. Driving to his home, two cars cut him off and a man ran up to Gemayel’s car window and fired his machinegun, riddling Gemayel with bullets. Though the anti-Syrian member of the Lebanese cabinet is reported to have survived the immediate attack, he died of his wounds as he arrived at a hospital.

The reaction from both within Lebanon and its neighbors was as swift as the nature of the responses was predictable. The Syrian government officially condemned the anti-Syrian’s murder, saying that it was “a crime aimed at destabilizing Lebanon. Syria is careful about preserving Lebanon’s security, unity and civil peace.” But reaction from the anti-Syrian March 14 group within Lebanon’s government dismissed such statements out of hand.

As one of the March 14 groups principal leaders and the son of assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minster Rafik Hariri, Saad Hariri blasted Syria as the primary suspect in yet another anti-Syrian liquidation. Hariri said, “Today one of our main people, main believers in a free, democratic Lebanon, has been killed. And we believe that the hands of Syria are all over the place because today, in a few days it will have been the second vote on the international tribunal that Syria has always been trying to avoid.”

Before the first vote last Monday on the international tribunals intended to try suspects - most of which are Syrian, including high-ranking government officials - in Rafik Hariri’s assassination, Syrian-sponsored Hizballah resigned their positions among the Lebanese cabinet in an attempt to de-legitimize the inevitable vote to hold the tribunals. Saad Hariri and his Cedar Revolution allies view the assassination of a Christian cabinet member as an extension of the same and a Syrian continuation of the strategy of intimidation through assassination employed since Rafik Hariri’s February 2005 murder by a suicide truck bomber.

The slain Prime Minister’s son said today that Bashar Assad’s Syrian regime is “trying to kill every free person” in Lebanon, adding that after a brief pause in anti-Syrian assassinations, “The cycle (of killings) has resumed.”

For ongoing updates on the situation and reporting from Lebanon, readers are encouraged to monitor the Lebanese media sources of Ya Libnan, the Lebanese newspaper an-Nahar’s Naharnet News Desk (whose anti-Syrian owner and publisher, Gibran Tueni, was assassinated less than one year ago), and Beirut’s popular The Daily Star newspaper. ThreatsWatch will provide ongoing analysis of developments as well as their context and repercussions as the situation unfolds.