Lebanon PM Postpones Cabinet Meeting After Shootout

BEIRUT (Reuters/AP) -
Hezbollah-aligned Lebanese Minister Saleh al-Gharib, whose convoy came under fire, killing one of his guards and wounding another. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri delayed Monday’s Cabinet meeting for 48 hours to allow tensions to calm down after a shootout in the Chouf Mountains on Sunday in which two aides of a government minister were killed.

Hariri addressed the media, saying that the judiciary would take all steps to hold those who had committed the crime accountable. On Sunday, terrorists opened fire at the convoy of Saleh al-Gharib, the minister of state handling refugee issues, killing two of his guards and wounding another.

Al-Gharib told local media that he was heading to the mountain village of Qabr Shamoun when his convoy came under fire. Al-Gharib is a member of a Druze party allied with Hezbollah and supportive of the Syrian government.

The Druze in Lebanon are divided over the war in neighboring Syria, with some supporting President Bashar Assad’s government and others aligned with the opposition.

The shooting came as supporters of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), led by Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, closed roads to prevent Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil from touring the region. Jumblatt’s party is opposed to Assad.

The PSP said in a statement that al-Gharib’s guards opened fire “randomly” at a group of people who were closing the road to prevent Bassil from passing. It said a PSP supporter was wounded in the shooting, and that others who had weapons opened fire at al-Gharib’s convoy, killing two of his guards.

“What happened was an armed ambush and a clear assassination attempt,” al-Gharib told the media.

The area where the shooting took place witnessed some of the worst fighting and sectarian killings during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war. Tensions in the area remain high decades later.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri called officials from the rival parties as well as heads of security agencies, urging them to restore calm.

Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Naim Hassan called on members of the sect to calm the situation and urged state institutions to open an investigation into the shooting.

The Lebanese army sent reinforcements to the area.