Mourners attend the funeral of assassinated Lebanese minister Pierre Gemayel in Beirut. Beirut was a sea of red and white flags as Lebanon turned out in a show of force for the funeral of the anti-Syrian minister, whose murder threatens to plunge the country deeper into political turmoil.
Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese turned the funeral Thursday for a slain Christian government minister into a massive demonstration of anger against Syria and its allies.
The sprawling funeral for Pierre Gemayel reinvigorated suporters of the U.S.-backed government in a power struggle with Syrian-backed Hezbollah and its allies threatening to split this small Mideast nations along sectarian lines. Police estimated some 800,000 people participated in the rally and funeral.
“The second independence uprising was launched today for change and it will not stop,” Gemayel’s father, former President Amin Gemayel, told the crowd in downtown Beirut, speaking from behind a panel of bulletproof glass. “I pledge to you that we will soon take steps so that your efforts will not go in vain.”
The throng applauded as the coffin, wrapped in the flag of Gemayel’s Phalange Party â€” white with a green cedar emblem â€” was carried past the square to nearby St. George’s Cathedral, where the packed congregation sang hymns. The 34-year-old Gemayel’s wife wept in the church, leaning on his mother’s shoulder.
A Mulsim woman holds up a picture of assassinated Lebanese minister Pierre Gemayel during his funeral procession in Beirut. Beirut was a sea of red and white flags.
Lebanese mourners carry the coffin of Lebanon’s Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel during his funeral in Beirut November 23, 2006.
But in the wake of Gemayel’s slaying, Lebanon is polarized to a degree not seen since Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, sharply divided between anti-Syrian Christians and Sunni Muslims and pro-Syrian Shiites. Many fear Thursday’s funeral could be the first round of demonstrations that could bring the political crisis into the volatile streets.
In Martyrs’ Square, men, women and children waved red, white and green Lebanese flags and posters of Gemayel with the slogans: “We want to live” and “Awaiting justice.”
Stay tuned as turmoil and unrest ferments in the streets of Beirut.
Michael Totten has Shove Your Civil War.
Nicole (L) and Patricia, the sister and wife respectively of Lebanon’s Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, cry during his funeral in Beirut.
Posters of Syrian President Bashar Assad are burned by anti-Syrian protesters during the funeral of assassinated Christian politician Pierre Gemayel, at the Martyrs square, in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday Nov. 23, 2006
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