Bassil’s tour of Mt Lebanon resulted in the killing of 2 aides of pro-Hezbollah minister


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”.

It was not clear who opened fire, but the area was tense as supporters of PSP  a party opposed to the Syrian government closed roads to prevent Bassil from touring the region.

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.