BEIRUT: Newly appointed ministers, envoys and international politicians denounced Wednesday’s twin suicide bombings, calling for unity and calm in the face of the latest attack.
President Michel Sleiman called on all military and security forces to “increase [their] coordination to detect the instigators and perpetrators in order to stop the series of terrorism and death which is targeting Lebanon and the Lebanese.”
Sleiman also said it was necessary to act in solidarity regardless of political affiliations, because “terrorism does not distinguish between areas and sects, but follows one doctrine, which is killing and destruction.”
Speaker Nabih Berri said Wednesday’s twin explosions, which killed eight people including the suicide bombers, was a “challenge” to all Lebanese and that security was a “key priority” for the government.
Speaking from the Iranian airport in Tehran before taking off on a visit to Albania, Berri called for “maximum alertness and cautiousness toward this hellish series and for cooperation between everyone to confront and combat it.”
The bombings are the first major security incident to occur since the new Cabinet was announced late last week.
“Amid the positive atmosphere that accompanied the birth of the government and had a positive impact on the Lebanese, terrorism dealt Lebanon a new blow through the bombing of a safe civilian area, in a message reflecting the insistence of the forces of evil to inflict harm on Lebanon and its people,” Prime Minister Tammam Salam said.
“We got the message, and we will respond by [closing ranks], adhering to civil peace and rallying around the Army and security forces that have received orders to arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice quickly,” he added.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri echoed Salam’s message following the bombing.
“If the objective of [Wednesday’s] terrorist attack is a message to the Lebanese that Lebanon will not be safe from terrorism after the formation of the government, we emphasize more than ever before the importance of unity among the Lebanese in the face of terrorism and all suspicious attempts to ignite [sectarian] strife and torpedo efforts to safeguard stability,” Hariri said in a statement.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai also strongly condemned Wednesday’s bombing, expressing his “great regret over the casualties, which disturbs the joy of the Lebanese toward the new government which most parties have participated in and which we are expecting will put an end to these criminal bombings.”
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk vowed to take strict measures along Lebanon’s porous border with Syria to protect against the infiltration of cars which he said were being stolen in Lebanon, rigged in Syria and then reimported.
Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun tweeted: “No doubt that the terrorists resented the formation of the government, which has pledged to confront them, so they responded with this attack.”
Rifts between political parties, particularly regarding the Syrian crisis, were also thrown into relief by the bombings.
Head of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea called on Hezbollah to stop sending its fighters to Syria and on the Lebanese government to tighten the country’s borders.
“What happened confirms what we expected – that the situation in the country will not change simply because of a change of faces in the government, but instead should do so through a change of the policies pursued by successive governments,” Geagea said.
The Future parliamentary bloc also renewed its demand for Hezbollah to withdraw from Syria “to eliminate the excuses” for car bombings.
“Terrorism is affecting all the Lebanese people and therefore Hezbollah’s withdrawal from Syria is [sought] in order to protect the homeland and the Lebanese by eliminating excuses [used by] terrorists and criminals,” the bloc said in a statement following its weekly meeting.
Hezbollah MP Ali Ammar, however, backed his party’s decision not to withdraw its fighters from Syria.
“This heinous crime committed by takfiri terrorists is part of a series of terrorist crimes against the Arab and Muslim world as well as the overall plot aimed at damaging the social fabric and pluralism of the Arab and Muslim worlds,” he said.
International authorities were quick to decry the attack as well.
In a meeting with Salam Wednesday that focused mostly on the country’s security, EU Ambassador to Lebanon Angelina Eichhorst strongly condemned the twin bombings, saying, “these operations will not be able to divide the country.”
Following a meeting with newly appointed Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, U.S. Ambassador David Hale said that the United States would “stand firmly with the new government, the people of Lebanon, the Lebanese Armed Forces, and the Internal Security Forces as they combat terrorism.”
The EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressed concern about the “spiral of violence in Lebanon,” adding that “terrorism and any use of violence against civilians – and especially children – are completely unacceptable.”
Hugh Robertson, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Minister, added to the chorus of condemnation, saying: “Such criminal and callous attacks cannot be allowed to destabilize the country and the wider region.”