Pierre Gemayel, a Lebanese cabinet minister and member of the Christian
Phalange party, has been shot dead in Beirut. His convoy was attacked
in a Christian neighbourhood.

Gemayel, son of former president Amin Gemayel, was a supporter of the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority, which is locked in a power struggle with pro-Syrian factions led by Hezbollah.

Al Jazeera's Roula Amin said his death was sure to worsen tensions in the already divided country.

She said that there was panic in Beirut following the assassination, with people rushing to get home.

Amin quoted Saad Hariri, the head of the anti-Syrian Future bloc, as pointing an accusing finger at Syria.

She said there had been speculation in recent weeks about a political assassination, with Hezbollah having put the Siniora government on notice.

The Phalange Party was involved Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, and has a considerable following among Christians.

The shooting comes amid increased tensions in Lebanon. Shia ministers withdrew from the cabinet two weeks ago in protest over power-sharing in Lebanon’s government, and Hezbollah is considering street demonstrations if early elections or a national unity government are not forthcoming.