Protesters in Lebanon who say they are tired of growing violence gathered in the capital’s Martyr’s Square on Thursday in a peace demonstration dubbed the “White March”.
Claiming no political affiliations, the protesters dressed in white shirts and displayed white wrist bands.
The killing of a top intelligence officer in a Beirut car bomb threw Lebanon into fresh crisis this week, exposing political and sectarian rifts and highlighting its vulnerability to conflict in neighboring Syria.
In addition to the political standoff between Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Hezbollah-backed government and its opponents, Lebanon has seen sporadic violence - particularly in the northern city of Tripoli - linked to the conflict in Syria.
The people say they have had enough.
“First of all we are here to raise our voice as a third voice against all this violence, against all what is happening. We are - as the civil society - we are here we are part of the people who are concerned for the future of the country. We want everyone to take (on) his role the way they should be, especially at the political level and at the decision making level. If they do what they are supposed to do then it will be much better,” Lebanese protester, Adnan Milkey, said.
The opposition blamed Syria for the assassination of Brigadier-General Wissam al-Hassan and called on Mikati to resign, saying he was too close to Damascus and its ally Hezbollah - which is part of Mikati’s government.
Mourners tried to storm government offices after Hassan’s funeral, protesters blocked roads across the country and a prominent opposition politician said there could be no dialogue to resolve the political crisis before Mikati stepped down.
Mikati himself has said he wants to stand aside for a “consensus government” to be formed, but that President Michel Suleiman asked him to remain in office to allow time for consultation and prevent the country sliding into chaos.
The march began in Martyr’s Square in central Beirut and ended in Sassine Square, the site of last Friday's bombing that killed al-Hassan, his bodyguard and passer by Georgette Sarkisian.