Lebanon's anti-Syrian leader said on Wednesday he expected Damascus to try and assassinate more politicians a day after the assassination of a Christian minister. Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel died as he drove through a Christian suburb of Beirut on Tuesday.
Druze leader Walid Jumblatt blamed Syria for Gemayel's assassination and stated he expected more killings aimed at undermining parliament's ruling majority. "It seems the Syrian regime will continue with the assassinations. I expect more assassinations but no matter what they do, we are here and we will be victorious," Jumblatt said.
Gemayel's body was driven from a hospital near Beirut to his hometown of Bikfaya, northeast of the capital, where hundreds of followers walked behind the coffin.
As the procession made its way to Gemayel's family home, women on balconies threw rice at the coffin draped in his party's flag, Reuters reported. Gemayel's funeral will take place on Thursday. The anti-Syrian March 14 Forces called for a massive turnout at the funeral. They vowed in a statement to "go after the criminals and all those who cover this crime … the blood of Pierre Gemayel will not go in vain."
There was a heavy police and army presence in Bikfaya and in Christian neighborhoods of Beirut.
"It is the destabilization of Lebanon that is underway today. We must respond to this destabilization with the greatest firmness, with courage," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said. "Those who perpetrated and ordered these assassinations must be held responsible for their crimes."
Pope Benedict called the assassination a "brutal attack" and urged the country's people to beware "the dark forces who are trying to destroy the country". Lebanese Maronite Christian Patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir urged restraint.