At least eight people were killed in a massive car bombing in Beirut today, including renowned intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Wissam a-Hassan, a central figure in Lebanese politics. Hassan was famous for uncovering Hezbollah's role in the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri, father of the current Sunni leader, the Washington Post explains. "This is a big, big, big event, and one cannot begin even to think through the repercussions," says an adviser to Sunni leader Saad Hariri, son of the late PM.
"Wissam al-Hassan was a very important man … in the great divide splitting the country," the adviser continued, "and he was an important man in the police work that has uncovered many sensitive things." At least 70 people were also wounded in the blast, which carved a 15-foot-deep crater in the dense neighborhood. Some observers fear the attack is a sign that the violence in Syria could spill into the country; one Christian lawmaker said it seemed designed to "start a civil war." (Read more Wissam al-Hassan stories.)