BEIRUT: Tensions reached a boiling point Sunday after clashes erupted between Minister of State for Refugee Affairs Saleh al-Gharib's convoy and Progressive Socialist Party supporters in the town of Qabr Shmoun, Aley.
The gunfire exchange came against the backdrop of rising tensions between the Free Patriotic Movement, an ally of Gharib's Lebanese Democratic Party, and Walid Jumblatt's PSP. The LDP and PSP, both from the Druze sect, have also clashed in the past.
Tensions simmered from the onset after PSP loyalists attempted to block FPM leader Gebran Bassil from passing through to the nearby village Kfar Matta as he was scheduled to meet with party members in the district of Aley.
Reports suggested that Gharib's convoy fired on those blocking the road, which was disputed by his office, arguing that it was actually PSP members who fired first.
Two of his bodyguards were killed while a third one remains in critical condition.
Bassil's tour of the district and visit was later canceled, as Prime Minister Saad Hariri held talks with the Foreign Minister, PSP, LDP, and Internal Security Forces officials to bring calm to the area.
Meanwhile, President Michel Aoun called for an emergency meeting of the Higher Defense Council.
Jumblatt has long criticized Bassil's policies, specifically his handling of the Syrian refugee crisis. He has accused him of infringing on the powers of the Prime Minister as well while also holding a grudge over Bassil's reluctance to hand him an extra-ministerial portfolio during the Cabinet negotiations earlier this year.
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