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Communist Leader George Hawi Car-Bombed to Death in Beirut

June 21, 2005/ Naharnet


Former Community Party leader George Hawi was killed in a car-bomb blast in Beirut's Wata Mosseitbeh middle-class neighborhood at midmorning Tuesday in the latest link of a chain of political assassinations that rocked the nation in connection with Syria's expulsion from Lebanon. He was 65.

Police said the thunderous explosion went off as Hawi, an outspoken critic of Syria's heavy-handed tutelage, climbed into his car, turned on the ignition and started the Mercedes-Benz rolling. Investigators have determined that the blast was detonated by remote control.

A worker at a nearby car dealership said he heard the blast and ran to the car. Hawi's driver, slightly wounded, had gone round to the passenger door and the two men tried to take Hawi out.

"Hawi was still alive and told the two of us, 'Help me, help me.' His face was bloodied, his abdomen was badly injured. Then he died," the worker said, refusing to be named for fear of trouble with the security services, The Associated Press reported.

The driver, Thabet Bezzi, was rushed to hospital suffering from shock. Another passerby also was hospitalized from the mid-morning explosion.

Police arrested five men believed to have watched the blast from a rooftop next to Hawi's apartment.

Hawi's wife Sossi, who came running to the scene, fainted and was also rushed to hospital after seeing the shredded remains of her husband being brought out and placed in a white plastic bag by fire fighters and civil defense volunteers. They spent nearly 20 minutes under the glare of local TV cameras in the extraction process.

Hawi was the third Lebanese figure to be murdered in Beirut. The first was ex-Premier Rafik Hariri along with his economic advisor Bassel Fleihan on Feb. 14 and the An Nahar journalist Samir Kassir June 2. Former Economy Minister Marwan Hamadeh, a top aide of Druze leader Walid Jumblat and a close Hariri associate, miraculously escaped a remote-controlled bombing assassination Oct. 1.

"It's an attempt to hit unity and national reconciliation after the holding of free and democratic elections but we will not retreat," Justice Minister Khaled Kabbani told reporters at the scene.

Hawi had been on his way to meet another anti-Syrian politician to analyze the opposition victory in the latest round of Lebanon's elections in the north, the AFP said.

"I accuse everybody who is against the stability of Lebanon and the establishment of a democratic system and peaceful cohabitation," newly elected opposition MP Ammar al-Houri told AFP.

He said the bombing bore the same fingerprints of the blast which killed Kassir.

Fellow opposition MP Ghazi Aridi asked why it was always anti-Syrian politicians who were targeted.

"George Hawi is a big loss for Lebanon and killing him is like killing Lebanon," said Aridi, a key aide to Druze leader Walid Jumblat. "Why do all the killings target the opposition?" he asked.

Hawi, acknowledged as the most prominent Communist ideologue in the Middle East, led the party's militia during the 1975-90 civil war. But he joined slain ex-Premier Hariri and Jumblat in the national reconciliation process that produced the main opposition alliance in recent months.