Tensions Simmer as Shooting Jolts Chouf

Two bodyguards working for State Minister for Refugee Affairs, Saleh Al-Gharib, died Sunday in an armed clash with Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) supporters in Aley. Another bodyguard is still in a critical condition.

The minister is affiliated with the Lebanese Democratic Party (LDP) led by MP Talal Arslan.

Tensions erupted as PSP supporters blocked the main road in Kfar Matta to protest a planned visit by Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil to the town.

A statement issued by the PSP stated that Al-Gharib's bodyguards started opening fire as his convoy passed by the protesters, prompting PSP supporters to respond.

On the other hand, Minister Al-Gharib and LDP claimed that the crowd started shooting first.

In an interview with New TV, Al-Gharib deemed what happened as "an armed ambush and a clear assassination attempt", noting that he was heading to the village of Qabr Shamoun when his convoy came under fire.

As Bassil canceled his visit which was described as "provocative" by PSP officials, Minister Akram Shuhayyeb said that "what happened is the result of poor judgment by some officials and is a recipe for strife on the Mountain."

PSP leader Walid Jumblat later tweeted that the incident should be investigated away from media, calling on the politics "newcomers" to be aware of the delicate balances that govern the Chouf.

"The Mountain is open to all political movements without exception, but it rejects the language of animosity which sows hatred and aims at settling accounts," he wrote.

Following the clash, President Michel Aoun made a series of contacts to contain the situation and called for the Higher Defense Council to convene on an emergency meeting on Monday.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri also contacted Bassil and officials from the Progressive Socialist Party, the Lebanese Democratic Party as well as security heads in a bid to ease tensions.

Acting Cassation Prosecutor, Imad Qabalan, has launched a probe into what happene, instructing security forces to collect information and identified the shooters.

Source: Kataeb.org