Tensions are high in the Lebanese capital of Beirut as the city, and indeed the entire country, is awaiting the funeral of slain Christian Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, who was killed by gunmen Tuesday as he was leaving his church.
Reports from Beirut have indicated that thousands of people have already taken to the streets in anticipation of the funeral, and some have already begun torching pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The fear in Lebanon today is that the renewed tensions between the various factions and ethnic groups in Lebanon because of the assassination would bring to yet another civil war to the country and destabilize the entire region once more.
Hizballah, which has been mentioned, along with its political partner Syria, as a possible culprit in the assassination of the outspoken anti-Syrian minister, has cancelled a massive rally in Beirut scheduled for Thursday protesting the Siniora government, in order to keep the calm and prevent unnecessary confrontations.
Some in Beirut have said that the recent assassination, the sixth of its kind of anti-Syrian politicians in the past two years, will revive what the Lebanese had called the “Cedar Revolution” which was triggered in February 2005 by the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, another outspoken anti-Syrian critic. The “Cedar Revolution” resulted in the eventual ousting of all Syrian military forces from Lebanon which have been occupying the country for more than 30 years.
In another related event this week, the United Nations Security Council has approved, on the same day of the Gemayel killing, the formation of a UN backed international tribunal which will investigate the assassination of Hariri and 14 others who were recently assassinated. US ambassador to the UN John Bolton said that they will push for Gemayel’s assassination to be added to the list.
The big question now remains if the Syrian and Iran-backed Shiite Hizballah will take on a confrontation with the US and European-backed Christian-Sunni government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and what effect will all these events have on Israel and the huge number of international forces stationed in the south after the recent war.