The convoy of a Lebanese minister Saleh al-Gharib, came under attack after leaving a meeting with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil in the town of Shemlan near Aley resulting in the , killing of two of his guards and wounding another, in what he claimed to be an assassination attempt.
Gharib was meeting with Bassil to plan a tour of the town of Kfraqatra but after supporters of a party opposed to the Syrian government called such tour provocative Bassil decided to cancel the visit , while Gharib decided to continue in that direction and his convoy was intercepted by gunmen near the village of Qabr Shmoun ( near Kfraqatra) thinking it was Bassil’s convoy. Gharib’s bodyguards were reportedly killed after exchanging fire with the gunmen.
Gharib, who is a member of a party allied with Hezbollah and supportive of the Syrian government , handles the refugees issues. He told Lebanon‘s al-Jadeed TV “what happened was an armed ambush and a clear assassination attempt”.
The Lebanese army sent reinforcements to the area .
The Lebanese are fiercely divided over the civil war in neighboring Syria.
The area, where the incident took place near the city of Aley, is loyal to anti-Damascus Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, whose Progressive Socialist Party denied any involvement in the incident.
PSP sources said Gharib’s convoy “forced its way as some young men were removing burning tires in the area and the bodyguards opened fire.”
But Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) reported earlier that Gharib’s bodyguards exchanged fire with the gunmen after they opened fire on the convoy.
PSP supporters had earlier intercepted Bassil’s convoy in several Aley towns, prompting the army to intervene.
Jumblatt had earlier tweeted that “the best way to respond to provocation resulting from arrogance is ignoring the person.”
The incident took place after Bassil delivered a speech in the Mt. Lebanon town of Kahale ( a suburb of Aley) . his speech was described as provocative by the anti Syrian regime parties .
The two aides of Gharib that were killed in the armed clash were identified byLDP leader Talal Arslan as Rami Akram Salman and Samer Nadim Abu Faraj. Like Gharib, Arslan is allied with Hezbollah and is supportive of the Syrian regime.
Jumblatt called for investigating the incident and urged the media to wait for the results of the investigation and refrain from any speculations that could lead to escalations
Meanwhile, President Michel Aoun called for an emergency meeting of the Higher Defense Council.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri held talks with Bassil, PSP, LDP, and Internal Security Forces officials to bring calm to the area.
Jumblatt has long criticized Bassil’s policies, specifically his handling of the Syrian refugee crisis. He has accused him of infringing on the powers of the Prime Minister
Bassil, who is the son-in-law of president Aoun has reportedly been making provocative tours of Jumblatt’s stronghold in Mt Lebanon in which he reportedly tried to create divisions between the Christian and Druze communities of the Aley and Shouf districts of Mt Lebanon.