Gunshots have been reported in several areas of downtown Beirut, Lebanon, where people rallied outside the Prime Ministers office. Anti-Syrian protesters called for a “Day of Rage” to coincide with the funeral of slain security chief al-Hasan.
Gunshots were heard in Barbour, Tarik al-Jadeedah and Corniche al-Mazraa areas, local Naharnet reported on Saturday evening.
Locals in the area have given some insight into the origins of a loud noise, feared to be a gunshot or explosion, commenting on Twitter a member of the public posted, “Hearing multiple reports that the loud noise believed to be an explosion in West Beirut was likely a stun grenade but no confirmation yet.”
Friday’s deadly bombing and assassination risks putting Beirut on a collision course with Damascus.
Protesters gathered in downtown Beirut outside the office of Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Saturday as calls for his resignation continue unabated over his alleged role in the high-profile assassination. Thousands of people angered by the recent killing of a top intelligence officer had gathered on Martyrs Square in the heart of the capital.
PM Najib Mikati, who enjoys support from Hezbollah, Damascus and Iran, offered to step down to placate those who accused him of playing a role in Friday’s deadly car bombing. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman refused his resignation.
The March 14 coalition has also called for a “Day of Rage” in the Lebanese capital on Sunday as with opposition leaders accusing Syria of being behind the attack.
“Let tomorrow be … a day of anger in the face of the butcher Bashar Assad and the black regime that rules Syria with the power of fire and destruction and wants to export blood and devastation to our country Lebanon,” the Lebanese Daily Star cites MP Nuhad Mashnouq, an outspoken critic of Assad, as saying.
March 14 said that the protesters would call on the Arab League and the UN Security Council to take the appropriate measures to preserve Lebanon’s stability.
“Such measures should include deploying the international troops United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon alongside the Lebanese-Syrian borders,” Mashnouq said.
Hassan will be interned near the tomb of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri on Martyrs Square, Internal Security Forces chief Ashraf Rifi told al-Mustaqbal television.
Hariri’s 2005 assassination sparked the 2005 Cedar Revolution which resulted in the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon. The March 14 coalition takes its name from the date the revolution kicked off.
The funeral will be held at the al-Amine mosque in downtown Beirut, near the mausoleum, and will follow afternoon prayers.
Rafiq’s son and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri insisted “everyone of you is personally invited to attend the funeral on Sunday,” but said that the roads should remain clear so that access to Marty’s Square will not be blocked.
MP Sami Gemayel, from the Christian Phalange Party, also called on supporters to come out in masse to Sunday’s funeral. Gemayel accused the Syrian government of dragging Lebanon into a direct confrontation.
“We tried to disassociate our nation from the conflict in Syria, but the regime is challenging the Lebanese people once again by assassinating Hassan,” the MP said.
Gemayel drew a line in the sand, saying Lebanese officials must decide if they are loyal to their own country or Syria.
“It's a battle between Lebanon and a foreign country that is violating its sovereignty and unity,” he added.
Gemayel also said the March 14 coalition should once again become a resistance movement that can safeguard both the Lebanese people and their state.
The assassination is as a major blow the March 14 coalition, to which Hassan, a Sunni Muslim, was closely allied.
Hassan was also a close ally of former PM Saad Hariri, who fled Lebanon in April 2011 after his government collapsed in January of that year amid fears he would be assassinated.
Hezbollah recently accused Hariri and his Future Movement of supporting the Syrian opposition.
“I say to the Future Movement and to Saad Hariri: have mercy on Lebanon and its people, have mercy on Syria and its people and stop funding and arming the [Syrian] opposition,” the National News Agency quoted Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem as saying last Saturday.
“[Stop] managing armed groups in Turkey and involving Lebanon in the details of the Syrian crisis. [Stop] sheltering gunmen in Lebanon and smuggling weapons from Lebanon to Syria,” Qassem continued.
Hezbollah and the Future Movement have routinely accused each other of meddling in the Syrian conflict.
Hassan died when an explosive-laden car detonated in Ashrafiyeh district of Beirut, a majority Christian neighborhood of the Lebanese capital. Seven others were killed in the blast, at least were injured, and surrounding buildings were seriously damaged.
It was the first car bombing in Lebanon in four years, when the country’s top anti-terrorism investigator was killed along with three others.
The attack sparked riots and protests which continued into Saturday, as thousands of people across Lebanon demonstrated against the bombing in Beirut.
The UN has condemned the attack calling for a thorough investigation to find the perpetrators, while the US called the blast a“terrorist attack.”
Syria also condemned the deadly blast.