Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—A car bomb went off near Rweiss in Dahieh, Hezbollah’s stronghold, on Thursday, leaving at least 22 people dead and approximately 100 injured.
This is the second attack against the Shi’ite-dominated area southern Beirut in the last 40 days. An explosion rocked Beir Al-Abed on July 9.
It is now clear that the security measures taken by the Shi’ite militia could not prevent another attack. Hezbollah reportedly stepped up its security checks following last month’s attack in Beir Al-Abed, including carrying out thorough inspections of the identities of anyone entering the Dahieh district.
In his latest TV interview, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah hinted at the security procedures used by his group, insisting that they are “first and foremost the responsibility of the government, but we have taken some measures.”
Pillars of smoke were seen rising above the site of the blast, with fire spreading to nearby buildings and shops. Several people were said to have been trapped by the fire that raged through the site of the explosion. Panic broke out across the Dahieh district, and the crowd that gathered reportedly made rescuing efforts difficult.
Thursday’s explosion comes against the backdrop of Hezbollah’s growing embroilment in the Syrian crisis, prompting several Syrian opposition sides to vow to take vengeance.
In a tape released by an unknown group calling itself the “Brigade of Aisha,” masked men claimed responsibility for the attack, pledging to stage more against the Shi’ite militia.
“This is the second time that we decide the time and place of the battle. . . . And you will see more, God willing,” the man in the video said.
“We send a message to our brothers in Lebanon, we ask you to stay away from all the Iranian colonies in Lebanon. . . . because your blood is precious to us,” he added.
The video continued: “But Hassan Nasrallah is an agent of Iran and Israel and we promise him more and more [attacks].”
For its part, Hezbollah denied that any of its leaders have been killed or injured, despite the fact that the blast happened within a stone’s throw of the Sayyed Al-Shuhada [Martyrs] complex, where Nasrallah appeared during Jerusalem Day celebrations only two weeks ago.
Thursday’s attack caused severe damage to residential and commercial complexes in the area, and flames were seen engulfing several cars.
The attack sparked widespread reactions from several Lebanese sides. The Lebanese president, Michel Suleiman, condemned the “disgusting crime,” which he described as a “cowardly attack.”
MP Walid Jumblatt pointed out that “those who can detonate a car bomb in Rweiss can do it anywhere,” emphasizing the need for the country’s security forces to “step up their efforts.”
Jumblatt also indicated that “after this attack and in such circumstances, no [side] can be excluded from the government,” in a reference to Hezbollah.
Commenting on the incident, Hezbollah MP Nawar Al-Sahili stressed that “all possibilities are open” regarding who is behind the attack.
Additional reporting was contributed by Layal Abu Rahal from Beirut.