Thousands Commemorate 2005 Killing of Lebanon Ex-PM Rafic Hariri

Thu Feb 15 2024
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BEIRUT: Thousands of people gathered in the Lebanese capital on Wednesday to commemorate the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafic Hariri and to call on his son Saad to make a political comeback.

Waving the blue flags of Saad Hariri’s Future Movement political party, the crowd clapped and cheered as he paid his respects at his father’s tomb in downtown Beirut.

“We want Saad Hariri to return to Lebanon, to bring back security and stability,” said Dina Hleihel, 55, a supporter who attended the rally.

Hariri was thrust into the political spotlight following the assassination of his father on 14 February 2005.

A reluctant politician, he stepped down as prime minister after unprecedented nationwide protests erupted in 2019 demanding a total overhaul of Lebanon’s political class.

In 2022, he announced that he was leaving politics and boycotted that year’s parliamentary elections.

Although he now lives in the United Arab Emirates, Hariri, who returned to Beirut on Sunday ahead of the anniversary, is still considered the country’s main Sunni Muslim leader.

After enjoying strong support from key Middle East nations, Hariri’s relationship with the regional heavyweight has soured over the years as the kingdom accused him of being overly accommodating to the pro-Iranian Hezbollah movement.

Hariri said on Wednesday that when he left politics, “the international community demanded change in Lebanon and I volunteered to leave.”

He said he is sticking to his decision for now and is “not thinking about” returning.

Thousands commemorate 2005 killing of Lebanon ex-PM Hariri

Hariri’s supporters have boldly called for the former prime minister to make a political comeback after he stepped down and moved to the United Arab Emirates in 2022.

“Now is not the time,” Hariri said in an interview with a Middle Eastern Al-Arabiya television.

The Sunni community – long a major political force that conventionally holds the post of prime minister in Lebanon’s delicate sectarian power-sharing system – has been sidelined and riven by divisions since Hariri’s self-imposed exile.

Political life in Lebanon as a whole has been paralyzed for months, with deep divisions between the powerful pro-Iranian camp centered around the Shiite militant group Hezbollah and its opponents.

The country has been without a president for more than a year while Lebanon navigates a crushing four-year economic crisis, with an interim government at the helm.

Rafic Hariri, a tall figure, was killed in a suicide bombing attack on his armored convoy.

The attack killed 22 people and injured 226.

In 2022, a UN-backed court sentenced two Hezbollah members in absentia to life in prison for the massive 2005 bombing.





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