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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Lebanon Politician Murdered-- Syria Blamed


Pierre Gemayel Jr. was murdered and it is believed that Syria once again has a hand in it.

His obituary:

Pierre Gemayel was a scion of one of Lebanon's most prominent Christian political dynasties - although he himself never touched the peaks of power and influence reached by his forebears.

But he will be remembered as the first serving government minister to be slain in a series of political assassination that have rocked Lebanon since the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005.

The name Gemayel is inextricably linked to the rightwing Maronite Christian party, the Phalange, founded by his grandfather (also named Pierre) in 1936 and one of the main players in the bloody civil war that gripped Lebanon through the 1970s and 1980s.

The Phalange has a controversial legacy from the war, during which it was allied to Israel and struggled to maintain the Maronite Christians' domination of the Lebanese political scene.

The biggest blow to the party came in 1982 with the assassination of Pierre's charismatic son and successor Bashir Gemayel, shortly after he had been elected Lebanese president.

Bashir's more consensus-minded, brother Amin became president and the party fell under Syrian influence.

At the end his term in office in 1988, Amin took his family - including Pierre Jr - into self-imposed exile, hoping it would help heal the divisions existing at that time between the Lebanon's various factions.

Power struggle

From France, Switzerland and the US, the former president worked to support the growing movement to end Syria's military and political control of Lebanon, a hang-over from the civil war when Syrian forces came in (at the Phalange's request) to impose peace.

He returned in 2000 and the same year his politically inexperienced son Pierre stood for and was elected to parliament on an anti-Syrian platform.

Pierre Jr became industry minister after the victory of anti-Syrian factions in the elections of 2005, which followed the assassination of popular former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

His death came as the anti-Syria, pro-Western majority in the government was locked in a power struggle with the militant Hezbollah movement and its allies.

It has been all over the news today, the Daily Star:

Prominent Christian politician Pierre Gemayel was assassinated in a suburb of Beirut on Tuesday his death will heighten the political tension in Lebanon, where Hezbollah has threatened to topple the government if it does not get a bigger say in Cabinet decision making. Witnesses said Gemayel was shot in his car in Jdeideh.

The witnesses said a car rammed Gemayel's car from behind and then an assassin stepped out and shot him at point blank range. Gemayel was rushed to a nearby hospital seriously wounded he was later confirmed as dead. Gemayel, the minister of industry and son of former President Amin Gemayel, was a member of the Kataeb party and supporter of parliamentary majority, which is locked in a power struggle with different parties led by Hezbollah.

Gemayel is the fifth figure to be assassinated in the past two years in Lebanon. Former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed in a massive car bombing in February 2005.

The journalist and activist Samir Kassir and former Communist Party leader George Hawi were killed in separate car bombings in June last year in addition to lawmaker and newspaper manager Gibran Tueni was killed in a car bombing in December.

Saad Hariri, leader of the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority, broke off a televised news conference after hearing that Gemayel had been shot. In an interview with CNN later, Hariri hailed Gemayel as "a friend, a brother to all of us" and appeared to break down after saying: "we will bring justice to all those who killed him."

Gemayel was first elected to parliament in 2005 and was believed to be the youngest legislator in the legislature, where anti-Syrian groups dominate. 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 Kataeb Party that fielded the largest Christian militia during the 1975-90 civil war between Christians and Muslims.

Syria may have overplayed this hand and it looks like Hizbullah is now being protested against, because last sunday, Nasrallah said that Hizbullah would topple the Lebanon government. (H/T to Gateway Pundit)

From Beirut to the Beltway has more.

Minister of Industry Pierre Gemayel was killed in a terrorist attack in Jdeideh in Beirut minutes ago. He was reportedly gunned down.

The assassination took place as Saad Hariri was declaring in a press conference that March 14 was ready for a “peaceful confrontation” with Hizbullah and the pro-Syrians parties, who want to stage a coup in the country and put Syria back in control through street protests.

Saad interrupted the press conference upon receiving the news. He then returned to announce that Gemayel was killed, and accused the Assad regime of trying to kill every free person in Lebanon.

Hariri said, choking with tears, "There is nothing left to discuss with the killer Syrian regime. The international tribunal is between us, and let whatever happens happen."

Samir Geagea had warned days ago that March 14 ministers would be subject to assassination attempts by the Assad regime to topple the government.

Tomorrow is Lebanon's independence day.
[UPDATE] 8:30PM:

Lebanon braced on Wednesday for a bitter power struggle after the assassination of an anti-Syrian Christian cabinet minister which his allies blamed on

Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel was gunned down on Tuesday as he drove in a Christian suburb of Beirut, becoming the sixth anti-Syria politician to be killed in nearly two years.

Hours later, the
U.N. Security Council approved plans for a special international court to try suspects in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

The action by the 15-nation council, in the form of a letter to U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan, will enable the plans to be submitted to the Lebanese government for its formal approval.

Hariri's son Saad and his allies quickly accused Damascus of killing Gemayel in an attempt to derail the tribunal. Many Lebanese blame Syria for killing Hariri.

A U.N. investigation has implicated Lebanese and Syrian security officials in Hariri's murder. Damascus denies any links. It also strongly condemned Gemayel's killing.

Read the rest here.

Michael Totten is continuously updating this story. Photos and more at Pajamas Media.