53 people are injured, Lebanon's health minister reports
The blast targets a Hezbollah stronghold in a southern Beirut suburb
The blast damaged buildings in the Bir El Abed neighborhood
A car bomb rocked a stronghold of the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah on Tuesday morning, injuring dozens of people in a southern suburb of the capital.
Fifty-three people were hurt in the blast in the Bir El Abed neighborhood, Lebanese Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil told Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV. Thirteen of them remained hospitalized Tuesday afternoon in stable condition, he said.
The blast erupted in a parking lot near the Islamic Cooperation Centre, a supermarket, the National News Agency reported. Video from the scene broadcast on Al-Manar showed vehicles ablaze, black smoke billowing aloft.
Fire crews doused the flames as authorities kept the crowds back. The explosion affected the lower floors of surrounding buildings, blowing out windows and damaging balconies, NNA reported.
Witnesses said that crowds hurled bottles at the interior minister, Marwan Charbel, as he was touring the site, and he fled.
Many of the injuries were minor, caused by glass debris, said Ali Krayyem, director general of Bahman Hospital, where many of the wounded were taken.
Tensions have risen in recent months as thousands of fighters from the militant Shiite group Hezbollah have poured across the border into Syria and thousands of Syrian refugees have fled into Lebanon.
With Hezbollah’s support, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad have regained momentum in his country’s civil war. Recently they retook what had been a rebel stronghold, the city of Qusayr, which is located on a major supply route close to the Lebanese border.
While that has helped turn the tide for Hezbollah’s patrons, it has also angered many in Lebanon.
Among those are Sunni Islamists, whose calls for Hezbollah to be stopped have grown in volume and number in recent days.
Sectarian violence has been a growing concern as many Lebanese support al-Assad’s embattled regime, while others do not.
A big worry is that Syria’s troubles will reopen the wounds of Lebanon’s civil war, which raged from 1975-1990, potentially pitting the Sunni community, which tends to back the Syrian rebels, against Hezbollah, a powerful pro-Assad Shiite militia.
This comes as evidence emerges that Syrian rebel groups are receiving small arms smuggled from Lebanon and Turkey.
In April, the Lebanese army announced it had intercepted a cargo ship bound for Tripoli – the northern epicenter of support for Syrian rebels in Lebanon – that was filled with weapons it believes were meant to be delivered to rebel forces in Syria.
CNN’s Nada Husseini and Mohammed Jamjoom reported from Beirut, with Ed Payne and Tom Watkins reporting and writing in Atlanta. CNN’s Mohammed Tawfeeq and Lonzo Cook also contributed to this report