Lebanese group says Israel behind commander’s assassination but Olmert denies it.
Syria denies any links to a series of killings across Lebanon in the past three years.
“In 2005 you took to the streets to force them out. In 2008 you must do the same so that they don’t come back,” read messages on billboards around Beirut.
In a speech to the rally, Saad al-Hariri, the former prime minister’s son and the parliamentary leader of the ruling bloc, said that three years ago forces tried to “assassinate Lebanon”.
“Here you are today, gathering once again, responding to the call of freedom, sovereignty and independence,” he told the crowd.
Schools and universities were ordered to shut on Thursday, while most businesses were set to close as the government declared a holiday.
Concerns that the two events will spark unrest has prompted foreign embassies to urge their citizens to observe extreme caution and avoid travel in Beirut.
Staying at home
Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin in Beirut said that many Lebanese would welcome the fact that it was raining, hoping that it would keep the turnout at the rallies low and reduce the chances of violence.
“Many people are staying at home, worried and just hoping that today passes without any problems,” she said.
The day of mourning for both the March 14 ruling bloc and its opponent Hezbollah comes amid continuing differences in Lebanese politics.
“We want a president for the republic,” he told the rally.
Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah secretary-general who is in hiding after the 2006 war with Israel, addressed mourners through a video broadcast at Moghaniyah’s funeral on Thursday.
The Israeli prime minister’s office denied allegations that it had played any role in Moghaniyah’s killing.
“Israel rejects the attempts of terror elements to attribute to Israel any involvement in this incident,” Ehud Olmert’s office said in a statement on Wednesday.
Iran also accused Israel of carrying out the attack.
|Moghaniyah is accused of involvement in the
bombing of a US embassy in 1983 [Reuters]
However, the US welcomed Moghaniyah’s killing, saying that he had been responsible for many deaths.
“The world is a better place without this man in it. He was a cold-blooded killer, a mass murderer and a terrorist responsible for countless innocent lives lost,” Sean McCormack, the US state department spokesman, said on Wednesday.
Also known as Hajj Radhwan, Moghaniyah was widely suspected of being behind a wave of Western hostage-taking in Lebanon in the 1980s, claims denied by Hezbollah.
According to the US and the West, he was a “top terrorist” and was involved in the bombing of the US embassy in Beirut in April 1983.
The US also claims he was involved in the killing of hundreds of US marines and French paratroopers in simultaneous truck bomb attacks in October 1983.