SIDON, Lebanon, (Reuters) – A bomb wounded a senior Islamic Jihad official and killed his brother in southern Lebanon on Friday, in an attack the Palestinian group blamed on Israel.
It was not immediately clear who targeted Mahmoud Majzoub, known as Abu Hamze, and his brother Nidal, also an Islamic Jihad member, but the group, the main Palestinian faction to defy a 15-month-old truce with Israel, vowed revenge.
“This is an Israeli attack and a dangerous escalation,” Islamic Jihad official Ali Abu Shahine told Reuters in Beirut.
“Israel will be held responsible for this attack which crosses red lines by targeting officials outside the Palestinian territories and that changes things.”
An Israeli military source told Reuters in Jerusalem he was not aware of any activity or involvement by Israel at this time.
Several Palestinian militants and officials of Lebanon’s Hizbollah guerrilla group have been assassinated in Lebanon in recent years in attacks their organisations have blamed on the Jewish state.
The most prominent was then-Hizbollah chief Sheikh Abbas al-Musawi, who was killed in 1992 when an Israeli helicopter rocketed his car in southern Lebanon.
Jihad Jibril, son of the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command chief, was killed in Beirut by an explosion in his car in 2002. Two Hizbollah officials died in blasts in 2003 and 2004.
Friday’s explosion was set off when the ignition was turned in the Majzoub brothers’ car, security sources said. The blast, near the Abu Bakr mosque in the port city of Sidon, was caused by a bomb planted in the vehicle, they said.
It reduced the car to a charred mass of twisted metal, showering the area with broken glass and debris. Lebanese security forces sealed off the area.
Lebanese security sources earlier said that Abu Hamze had been killed but later said he sustained critical wounds and that his brother died.
Islamic Jihad has killed more than 30 people in suicide bombings inside Israel since a ceasefire started, including one that left 11 people dead in Tel Aviv on April 17.
Israeli forces have repeatedly targeted Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank with deadly missile strikes and arrest raids, prompting calls for revenge from the group.
Islamic Jihad’s leader, Abdallah Ramadan Shallah, is based in Damascus, which has been under international pressure to stop backing Palestinian militant groups opposed to peace with the Jewish state.
Lebanon has seen a string of bombings and assassinations against anti-Syria politicians and journalists since the February 2005 killing of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
International and Lebanese uproar over Hariri’s murder forced Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon two months later.