Beruit Tense after Gunmen Assassinate Lebanese Minister

Beruit was on edge Tuesday night after a prominent anti-Syrian Christian politician and government minister was assassinated.

Pierre Gemayel, the minister of industry who comes from one of the leading Christian families in the country, was shot in his car and and later pronounced dead after being rushed to a nearby hospital.

His assassination was part of a cycle of killings that have been repeatedly blamed on Syria. The assassins first struck in February 2005, killing Rafiq Hariri, the former prime minister and fierce Syrian opponent.

However, Syria has denied any involvement in both Hariri’s and today’s killings.

The murder comes as Lebanon struggles for unity following the month-long summer war between Israel and and Hizbollah which has been seeking to capitalise on its percieved victory by demanding a greater say in Lebanon’s government.

Although there have been many accusations of Syrian or Iranian involvement in the killings, Israel would also benefit.

Israel had been particularly alarmed at the prospect of the collapse of the Siniora government and the burgeoning of Hizbollah’s political power. This could now result in open conflict as various Lebanese factions turn on each other. Which in turn could result in a considerable lessening of tension on Israel’s border with Lebanon

As with Hariri’s assassination, the western news media has played down any suggestion of Israeli involvement. Focusing instead on accusations of Syrian or Iranian involvement and suspicions over Hizbollah.

Tuesday’s killing was the second assassination to strike theGemayel family: in 1982 Bashir Gemayel, uncle of the young Amine, was killed days before he was due to take over as president.