Fifty-three people were wounded when a car bomb exploded in Dahiyeh in southern Lebanon, a stronghold for the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah group, the Health Ministry has said.
The blast occurred at around 11am, local time, in the car park of a supermarket in the residential area of Bir el-Abed on Tuesday.
Al Jazeera’s Nour Samaha, reporting from Beirut, said the blast caused heavy damage to the cars parked in the area, as well as dozens of store fronts.
“First and second floor apartments surrounding the blast site also endured damage, with most of their windows shattered from the impact,” she said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack as yet.
Reuters news agency had reported medics as saying that several people were killed in the bombing. However, no deaths had been confirmed by officials.
According to the head of the medical operations on the ground, who asked to remain anonymous, the majority of people who were injured and sent to hospitals suffered from light wounds, primarily from glass flying, said Samaha, adding that most of the injured had been discharged.
“He said at least five people sustained moderate wounds,” she said.
Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, said that the area was generally a busy part of the city, but it was even more crowded on Tuesday because it was the last day before Ramadan.
Residents in the area told Al Jazeera that they put the blame on Israel, “and those working to serve Israel’s interests,” adding that the area was a civilian area with no security or political targets.
Other reports point to Hezbollah’s involvement in the war in neighbouring Syria, where its fighters are battling against Sunni Muslim opposition fighters trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
Marwan Charbel, the Interior Minister, was attacked by angry civilians when he visited the bomb site and the army had to fire bullets into the air to break up the trouble.
|Al Jazeera discusses Beirut attack with political analyst
Carole Mansour, who owns a shoe shop near the affected area, told AFP news agency that everyone panicked and ran in different directions when the huge explosion occurred.
“The smoke was so high,” said Mansour, who added that Hezbollah members dressed in civilian clothing were quick to deploy around the bombing site.
“I started following the sounds of the screams of people. My employees ran to the site to try to see what was happening because they have relatives there.”
Amin said that the blast added to the tight sectarian and political divide in Lebanon over the war in Syria.
“Hezbollah is very clear about fighting by the side of Assad,” our correspondent said.
“Lebanon is vulnerable to what’s happening in Syria because it has so many groups; Sunni, Shias, Druzes and Christians.”
Amin said that the attack was the second to hit the predominantly Shia south of Beirut this year, following rocket strikes in May.
On Monday, two rockets fired from inside Syria hit the eastern Lebanese city of Hermel, a majority Shia Hezbollah bastion in the Bekaa valley, without causing casualties, a security source told the AFP news agency.
“Rockets fired from Syrian territory landed this afternoon on the city of Hermel, causing no injuries,” the source said on condition of anonymity.
Eastern Lebanon has seen repeated rocket attacks in recent weeks.
Officially neutral in Syria’s conflict, Lebanon is deeply divided into pro- and anti-Assad camps.
Hezbollah and its allies back Assad, while the Sunni-led opposition are seeking his removal.