The Lebanese Red Cross receiving the body of Pascal Sleiman from the Syrian Red Crescent. (Credit: Michel Hallak/L'Orient Today)


Pascal Sleiman's funeral to be held Friday following autopsy

What you need to know

The Central Internal Security Council held a special meeting today to address the murder.

The Lebanese Forces reject the official version and consider the crime to be a "political assassination" until proven otherwise.

Calls for restraint multiply as the Syrian population in Lebanon faces mounting aggression and hostility.

22:51 Beirut Time

This live blog is now closed. Thanks for joining us.

22:50 Beirut Time

Carjacking gone wrong or a deadly political message? Security sources explain why the Lebanese Army’s framing of Pascal Sleiman’s murder is being brought into question, as well as how it’s being defended.

Salah Hijazi outlines the sequence of events as we know it and how people are responding to it. 

Read here 👉 What we do and don't know about the murder of Pascal Sleiman.

21:14 Beirut Time

The Maronite Church leader Bechara al-Rai will officiate Pascal Sleiman's funeral on Friday at 3 p.m. at Saint George's Church in Jbeil. Sleiman will then be buried in the cemetery of Notre-Dame d’Elige.

19:12 Beirut Time

Pascal Sleiman's body arrived at the Military Hospital (in the Badaro district of Beirut) to be examined as part of the investigation before being handed over to his family, according to local media.

19:11 Beirut Time

According to Bassil, this "horrible crime, whatever its motivation, is the result of a game played by nations — an external game with internal complicity and the presence of over a million Syrians in Lebanon, with all the existential risks it poses to Lebanon, including security risks like what happened to Pascal and others."

While Bassil took a similar line to many Lebanese politicians who blame the Syrian population in Lebanon — the majority of which are refugees from the Syrian war — for much of the conflict in the crisis-ridden country, he still warned against the mistreatment of Syrians in the wake of the murder. He told people to avoid "taking revenge on Syrian refugees as it would create great discord between Lebanese and Syrians."

"The solution lies in pressure and concrete action to repatriate Syrians to their country," he said during the press conference. The UN and several human rights organizations have warned that Syria remains unsafe for many of the refugees who fled violence and persecution there. Many Syrians who have returned, either by force or by choice, have faced torture and arbitrary detention.

"The murder of Pascal Sleiman is a lesson, not to mention a warning. It's a warning to all those who supported the entry of Syrians without conditions," Bassil said.

In Bassil's opinion, the solution should be to call on "the state, security forces, and justice to assume their responsibilities," although he was not explicit about what those responsibilities would be. The second possible solution, he said, would be for municipalities to take "legal action against illegal Syrians living in Lebanon."

18:50 Beirut Time

Gebran Bassil, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM, Aounist), just spoke at length about the murder of Pascal Sleiman during a press conference held at 5 p.m. in Beirut.

"His family, his party, and all Lebanese have the right to know the truth and the motives behind the crime," Bassil said. "It is up to the Lebanese Army and the Lebanese justice system to punish those who committed [this crime], and it is up to the army and the security forces to maintain security in the country and prevent it from being dragged into conflict."

Bassil expressed his condolences to Sleiman's family, the Lebanese Forces, and "to all Lebanese."

"We all worked all night on Sunday and all day on Monday to try to save Pascal and protect the country," he told reporters, claiming to have "felt the danger of an internal conflict."

"Even generations who have not lived through war know that deliberately striking at the state with external and internal plans is what caused the wars that killed hundreds of thousands of people, and this is what must be prevented from happening again," the FPM leader warned.

Referring to a security practice that would mean the resurgence of militias, Bassil said: "Personal security must not be implemented as long as we have official security institutions." This route "opens the door to gangs in every town, village, and street."

16:59 Beirut Time

People have started gathering at the Sayyida roundabout of Sayyida in Zahle, in the Bekaa, to receive the body of Sleiman, our correspondent in the Bekaa reported.

16:57 Beirut Time

The Red Cross vehicle transporting the body of Pascal Sleiman towards his hometown in Jbeil. (Courtesy of Sara Abdallah/L'Orient Today)

16:54 Beirut Time

Commenting on Sleiman's murder, the Kataeb party called on those involved from the political, security, and judicial authorities to "reveal ... the details of who instigated, planned and carried out the crime, and what are the real motives behind it ... in order to resolve all the ambiguities surrounding the case," the National News Agency reports. The party added that the crime was accompanied by "suspicious data and media misinformation."

16:41 Beirut Time

When Pascal Sleiman's body arrived into Lebanese territory, it passed through the town of al-Qaa (Baalbeck-Hermel district), where he was received by the townspeople, the mayor, the mokhtars, and the parish priest, the Lebanese Forces said in a post on X. Roses were scattered around the procession and fireworks were launched in commemoration of him.

16:26 Beirut Time

The Lebanese Army has announced that the Syrian authorities have handed over Pascal Sleiman's body. The victim's body will be transferred to the Central Military Hospital for an autopsy and an examination in aid of the investigation currently underway before it is handed over to his family.

16:23 Beirut Time

In this afternoon's press release, the Lebanese Forces also blamed “porous borders” with Syria, which it says Hezbollah has turned into a strategic route between Tehran and Beirut “under the name of unity of the fronts." The limited control of these borders, LF claims, was a significant factor allowing Sleiman's murder to occur — a murder that LF deems to be a "political assassination."

“Unless illegal crossings are closed and legal ones controlled, these borders will remain a gateway for political crime, smuggling and drug trafficking,” the statement said.

16:18 Beirut Time

The Lebanese Forces (LF) have reiterated their position that until the investigation into Pascal Sleiman’s murder is completed and published, the party considers the Sleiman the target of “a political assassination.” In a press release issued this afternoon, LF also said that the investigation must be transparent and made public.

The LF statement blames Hezbollah’s “illegal presence,” which it says has “hampered the role of the State,” leaving room for “armed gangs and chaos.”

“The amputation of the State’s judicial, security and military services,” the statement reads, prevents the Lebanese state from being active in certain areas, during certain scenarios, “or in any case linked to a person belonging to the ‘Axis of Resistance.’”

15:32 Beirut Time

Lebanese caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said, after an extraordinary meeting of the Central Security Council, that the people behind the murder of Pascal Sleiman used a white Hyundai car that was previously stolen in the area of Rabieh (Metn).

Mawlawi did not give more information on the crime but said that he would not accept anything else than the "full disclosure of the murder of Sleiman."

He also called on Lebanese people to remain calm and to rely on security services and the judiciary.

Mawlawi also said that he told the Internal Security Forces to pay more attention "to sensitive areas" and to ensure that Lebanese laws on Syrian migrants are enforced.

"The presence of Syrians in Lebanon, the way it is today, is unacceptable," he added.

14:41 Beirut Time

While several L'Orient Today correspondents in Mayfouk, Amchit and Jbeil said they were "waiting for the investigation" into Pascal Sleiman's killing, including his widow Micheline, not everyone agrees.

"No, I don't trust the current investigation," a plainclothes Internal Security Forces agent told L'Orient Today's journalists at a butcher's shop in Jbeil.

13:41 Beirut Time

As Pascal Sleiman's family prepares to receive condolences at the Saint-Georges Parish Hall in Jbeil, L'Orient Today visited the town, where the atmosphere is calm in the early afternoon. There, they met Roger, a tuktuk driver in Jbeil in his fifties and a supporter of the Lebanese Forces, who told them that he was entrusting himself to the state, while taking on Hezbollah: "We want peace. They want war. But we won't let ourselves be killed like that."

13:40 Beirut Time

According to a judicial source contacted by AFP, "the confessions of the seven Syrians arrested concurred that the sole motive for the crime was the theft" of the victim's car. The suspects "confessed to hitting the victim on the face and head with the butts of their revolvers to make him stop resisting, then placing him in the trunk of the car" and taking him to Syria, where they discovered he was dead, the same judicial source detailed.

This version is consistent with a statement issued by the Lebanese army on Monday evening, in which it indicated that Pascal Sleiman had been "killed by members of a gang who were trying to steal his car," according to the initial results of the investigation.

12:50 Beirut Time

A Lebanese Red Cross vehicle, with the cooperation of the Syrian Red Crescent and the Lebanese army, arrived in Homs and headed for the Bassel Al-Assad Governmental Hospital to receive Pascal Sleiman's body, LBCI reports.

12:29 Beirut Time

Michelle Sleiman, widow of Pascal Sleiman, at her home in Amchit. (Credit: Matthieu Karam/L'Orient Today)

In Amchit, Micheline Sleiman, widow of the murdered LF official, spoke with L'Orient Today's journalists at her family home. " Everyone loved Pascal. He was a peaceful person, with no enemies," she describes, ushering in the local press as they file past her building.

As to the cause of her husband's death, she insists she has "no answers." "I'm trying to understand. I don't believe the versions [so far] put forward. [The alleged assailants] didn't ask for ransom. They took my husband ... but not the car: How can it be a car theft" she questioned, adding that on the day of his abduction, Pascal Sleiman had dismissed his bodyguards for the day. "He was in his village [Mayfouk]," she said. For her, "someone had to be watching him."

 Sleiman says she is waiting for the investigation: "My fear is that nothing will happen, that Lebanon will remain as it is [now]". But today, she assured that she is confident and expects answers. "We are God's children. And God knows everything," she concluded.

12:01 Beirut Time

The caretaker justice minister, Henri Khoury, condemned a "heinous organized crime, from Pascal Sleiman's abduction to his death, which has saddened the entire nation."

He pledged to follow the investigation with the office of the public prosecutor at the Court of Cassation and the security forces to ensure that all those involved, "regardless of their [political] affiliation, are arrested and punished."

11:59 Beirut Time

Downstairs at Pascal Sleiman's family home in Amchit, friends of the deceased came to offer their condolences. Angry, they did not believe the theft theory and did not hesitate to criticize Hezbollah, without naming it. "It's a lie. It wasn't a robbery. It was a professional armed gang," says one. We're waiting for the investigation," he stresses.

"Only the state and the army protect us. We don't want to carry weapons," says another, who is dubious about Hassan Nasrallah's denial on Monday of any Hezbollah involvement in the crime. "He was just expressing his opinion," he says. "In case of danger, we are LF. We will not be dhimmis (protected but submissive non-Muslims in the land of Islam) in this country. If it's imposed on us, we won't flee," says a third, angrily.

11:57 Beirut Time

According to security sources contacted by L'Orient Today's correspondent in the Bekaa, a military delegation accompanied by teams from the Lebanese Red Cross arrived at the al-Qaa border crossing in the northern Bekaa to receive the body of Pascal Sleiman. The body is currently at the Bassel Hospital in Homs, Syria.

11:44 Beirut Time

Another Mayfouk resident met by L'Orient Today's correspondents on Tuesday morning, who wished to remain anonymous, does not believe the official version of Pascal Sleiman's death either. " It's political," she says. "I don't believe for a second that this is a robbery or linked to Syrians. It's smuggling... And who's covering up the smuggling [in Lebanon]," she asked, while refusing to name the political party she was referring to.

But in Mayfouk, fear has gone up a notch: "I won't let my son walk [alone] in the street anymore. Security is lax in this country." He added: "It would be easier to divide the country. When there was only Mount Lebanon, we lived in peace. That's no longer the case with Greater Lebanon. Our values are different. It's not a question of religion, but of obscurantism," she says.

"We're waiting to see what the Doctor [Samir Geagea, leader of the LF] has to say to find out what happens next. The anger is there. But it's up to him to decide whether this anger will remain contained," she concludes, noting however that she is " afraid of war ."

11:41 Beirut Time

The Lebanese Forces headquarters in Mayfouk, Kesrouan, Pascal Sleiman's home village. (Credit: Matthieu Karam/L'Orient Today)

L'Orient Today correspondents visited the ghost village of Mayfouk, in Kesrouan, Pascal Sleiman's home village, on Tuesday morning. Most of the inhabitants had left Mayfouk for Amchit, on the coast, a stone's throw from Jbeil, where Pascal Sleiman's family lives.

"We all lowered the iron curtains for Pascal. He was the hero of the village," says Maroun Khalifeh, one of the few passers-by we met. " He was a peaceful man who helped everyone in the village," added the thirty-year-old manager of a bakery. He does not believe the official version of the motives for the murder: "We can't believe anything. From the moment he was abducted, there have been several versions. We don't know anything." Only one thing is certain: "When we heard he was dead, we all went crazy."

11:02 Beirut Time

Commenting on videos that showed men, identified as Syrian migrants, being beaten by groups of men, themselves identified as LF supporters, Arab Tawhid Party head Wiam Wahhab said that "some savages should stop their attacks on innocent Syrians who are subjected to a racist campaign in response to a crime committed by individuals."

"The images received are unacceptable and indicate an organized campaign, and the security forces must move quickly to address the situation, and countries that care about refugees are required to send a serious message to the [security] services to take action."

10:27 Beirut Time

Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai offered his condolences to Pascal Sleiman's family. "We call for calm and restraint and ask the judiciary and security forces to do what is necessary and impose the harshest penalties on the criminals. We call on the media to refrain from misinterpreting and stirring up conflict," he said.

Welcoming the reaction of the victim's widow, the Maronite Patriarch stressed that she had set a fine example for the Lebanese and had never uttered a single word calling for vengeance or murder. "We are children of the resurrection, children of hope," she said.

10:10 Beirut Time

Byblos Bank, where Pascal Sleiman worked for around twenty years, announced, in a statement, that it was closing its doors today "as a sign of mourning."

"The deceased worked for the bank for over twenty years and was characterized by his professionalism, sincerity, dedication and closeness to his colleagues," the statement added.

"We strongly condemn this horrific crime and hope that the investigations carried out by the competent authorities will shed light on the circumstances and impose the severest penalties on the perpetrators."

09:55 Beirut Time

The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), a political rival to the Lebanese Forces, felt that "the involvement of Syrians in this crime highlights the dangers associated with mass immigration," calling for "no sedition."

FPM MP Ibrahim Kanaan felt that the case represented "the last chance for the State and its institutions" to prove themselves. He denounced the "anarchy" of the security situation and called for a new way of "managing" security issues, the Syrian migrant dossier and border controls.

09:43 Beirut Time

From her home in Amchit, north of Jbeil, Pascal Sleiman's wife told local media station MTV that she would not let her husband's murder get her down.

"We are Christians. Our Christ conquered death. We are not afraid. We are not afraid of death. Every time one of us dies, we become stronger," said the mother of three. "We will be stronger than before. As Christians, we will not back down and we will stay in this country with all our might."

09:42 Beirut Time

Pierre Bou Assi, LF MP for Baabda, also reacted to Pascal Sleiman's murder, saying he had "no confidence in anyone, neither in the security services nor in the ministers in charge," while drawing parallels with previous cases, including some political assassinations committed in cars.

"Mad dogs tore Pascal Sleiman's heart apart. A gang of thieves transported his body to Syria! The investigation into the murders of Joe Bejjani (killed in December 2020 in Kahaleh), Lokman Slim (killed near Nabatieh in February 2021) and Elias Hasrouni (LF official killed in a car accident in southern Lebanon in August 2023) died before it saw the light of day," he wrote on his X account.

"Until the truth comes out, I don't trust anyone, neither the security services nor the ministers in charge. I'm waiting for the full truth. If possible, this time without Abu Adass (the Islamist behind the alleged "false claim" expressed the day after Rafik Hariri's assassination)."

09:09 Beirut Time

The Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) warned of the "danger of dragging the country into an unfortunate situation" following the killing of Sleiman, according to state-run National News Agency.

"While the PSP expresses its sincere condolences to the Lebanese Forces and the family of the deceased, it calls at the same time to be aware of the danger of dragging the country into an unfortunate situation if uncalculated reactions against the Syrian refugees get out of hand, the language of reason, law and justice remains the best way to spare the country from strife," the party's statement reads.

"The PSP strongly condemns [this] crime and calls on the security services and the army, who made appreciable efforts to uncover the circumstances of what happened, to arrest all those involved in this cowardly act ... and inflict maximum punishment on them."

09:07 Beirut Time

Jaafarite Mufti Ahmad Qabalan, close to Lebanon's leading Shiite parties Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, insisted on the need to "prevent any sectarian or political discourse that would lead to a national catastrophe," according to the state-run National News Agency (NNA).

"We offer our condolences to the family [of Pascal Sleiman] and to the Lebanese Forces Party and stress the importance of national unity ... and the need to prevent any sectarian or political discourse that would lead to a national catastrophe. What is happening confirms the need for national reunification. All communities and parties must be treated as a single national family," he declared.

"We strongly condemn the assassination of Sleiman by a criminal gang that has virtually destroyed civil peace in the country," added Qabalan.

He also called for a swift and transparent follow-up to the case, and for the state to activate all "proactive security capabilities."

09:04 Beirut Time

Several towns have also banned Syrians living there from moving around today, claiming to be basing their action on orders from the Lebanese army. These include Jbeil and several villages in the Bekaa.

09:04 Beirut Time

The situation was tense in the streets throughout the night, and several videos, which L'Orient Today was not able to independently verify, showed men, identified as Syrian migrants, being beaten by groups of men, themselves identified as LF supporters. In Jbeil, cars were also vandalized.

09:02 Beirut Time

Caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi will chair an exceptional meeting of the Central Internal Security Council at 1 p.m. to discuss the situation following the murder of Pascal Sleiman. Minister Mawlawi is expected to speak at the end of the meeting, according to the state-run NNA.

09:01 Beirut Time

Following the army's announcement, the office of the caretaker prime minister, Najib Mikati, was quick to call on all parties to "exercise restraint" and not allow themselves to be "carried away by their emotions."

A similar statement was issued by the caretaker defense minister, Maurice Slim, who also called for calm and to "ensure that the perpetrators of this heinous crime achieve their objectives, particularly in terms of undermining security."

08:59 Beirut Time

Pascal Sleiman, a native of Mayfouk in the Jbeil Heights, disappeared at around 6:15 p.m. on Sunday by men who blocked the road to Kharbeh, near his village.

08:58 Beirut Time

This version of events did not seem to convince the LF. Late in the evening, Samir Geagea's party issued a statement claiming that the death of its official was the result of a "premeditated murder" which the LF "considers a political assassination until proven otherwise."

According to the official National News Agency (NNA), following the publication of this statement, the LF supporters who had been blocking the Jbeil freeway in both directions since the morning withdrew.

08:57 Beirut Time

All day yesterday, the Lebanese army and security forces had been following the investigation to locate Pascal Sleiman. Contradictory information circulated throughout the hours, until the evening, when it was announced that the LF official had been killed by a gang of Syrians, for heinous reasons, and that his body had been taken to Syria.

08:56 Beirut Time

Be sure to read the Morning Brief so that you are caught up with everything that has been happening.

Morning Brief

LF official killed, Nasrallah commemorates IRGC commander, Eid al-Fitr announced: Everything you need to know to start your Tuesday

08:55 Beirut Time

Good morning!

Thank you for joining us for our live coverage of the aftermath of the killing of Lebanese Forces official Pascal Sleiman.