Lebanon: Blast rocks Palestinian camp, causes casualties

Ambulances rush to the scene in the Burj al-Shemali camp in port city of Tyre as authorities investigate source of blast.

A rescue team's vehicle is seen at the Palestinian camp where the explosion took place, in the southern Lebanese port city of Tyre [Ali Hankir/Reuters]

A large explosion rocked a Palestinian camp in the southern Lebanese port city of Tyre, causing a number of casualties.

The explosion took place late on Friday at a suspected Hamas weapons depot in the Burj al-Shemali camp.

Videos from the scene shared by local media showed a number of small bright red flashes above the southern city, followed by a large explosion and the sound of glass breaking.

The state-run National News Agency (NNA) reported an unspecified number of deaths, but local media and civil defence workers on the scene said there had been no fatalities. A security source also told Reuters news agency that fatalities had not been recorded.

The NNA said the blast emanated from a weapons depot belonging to the Palestinian Hamas group.

The army cordoned off the area, preventing people from entering or leaving the camp. A judge had ordered security forces to launch an investigation, the NNA reported.

Hamas said in a statement on Saturday the blast was caused by an electrical fault in a warehouse containing oxygen and gas cylinders for coronavirus patients, as well as detergents and disinfectants.

The fire damaged some property but losses were limited, the group said. It did not provide information on the number of deaths and injuries.

Shehab News Agency, seen as close to Hamas, quoted a Palestinian source as saying the explosion was caused by the ignition of oxygen canisters stored for use in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hamas, the group that runs the besieged Gaza Strip, maintains a presence in a number of Palestinian camps in Lebanon.

Lebanon is home to tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Many live in the 12 refugee camps that are scattered across the small Mediterranean country.

A number of armed Palestinian factions, including those linked to Hamas and Fatah, hold effective control over the camps, which Lebanese authorities by custom do not enter.

Source: News Agencies