When a car bomb laden with over 60 kilograms of TNT gutted the sleepy residential impasse of Ibrahim al-Munzer St. on October 19, it did not merely kill an intelligence chief, his driver and a luckless bystander. Situated scarcely a hundred meters from the bustling Sassine Square—where dozens of glass panes were instantaneously shattered—the blast also drove chaos and terror into the symbolic heart of Beirut’s Christian community.


Seated on the crown of the Ashrafieh hill and orbited by offices, cafés, schools, churches and a mall, Sassine Square is the social and commercial hub of the district. In terms of political orientation, while a large monument to slain President-elect Bashir Gemayel of the Lebanese Forces (now the leading March 14 Christian party) stands in the Square’s center, it is also often adorned with flags of the rival March 8-aligned Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). Indeed, in the most recent parliamentary elections of 2009, March 14 pipped March 8 to victory in Ashrafieh by fewer than 3,000 votes out of a total of 91,000 registered voters. [Link]