Deadly blast at Palestinian terror group base in Lebanon; Israel denies involvement

5 dead in large explosion at PFLP-General Command site in the Bekaa Valley near Syrian border; Lebanese security source says old rocket exploded at arms depot

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Damage is seen to a PFLP-GC site in Lebanon, following an alleged Israeli bombing on May 31, 2023. (Social media)
Damage is seen to a PFLP-GC site in Lebanon, following an alleged Israeli bombing on May 31, 2023. (Social media)

Five members of a Palestinian terror group in Lebanon were killed in a mysterious blast blamed on Israel on Wednesday morning, Arabic-language media reported. Israeli officials denied any involvement and a Lebanese security source said the explosion was accidental.

According to reports by Al Jazeera and other networks, the blast occurred at a base belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), near the town of Qousaya in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, near the border with Syria.

PFLP-GC accused Israel of carrying out a strike at the base. Images posted to social media showed a crater, a damaged building, and a damaged car, apparently as a result of the explosion.

Israeli officials, however, said that the Israel Defense Forces did not carry out any strike in the area.

A Lebanese security source who spoke to AFP said the blast was accidental. “An old rocket exploded in an arms depot on the base and five fighters were killed,” the source said.

PFLP-GC spokesman Anwar Raja said Israel had carried out “overnight raids” on the Qusaya base.

“Five fighters were killed” and 10 wounded, he told AFP, adding that “for now we do not have more detailed information on the operation.”

In past cases when Israel reportedly carried out strikes in the Bekaa Valley, it appeared to have acted in order to stop the transfer of advanced arms from Iran to the Hezbollah terror group, via Syria.

The IDF reportedly struck a PFLP-GC base in the Bekaa Valley in 2019.

The PFLP-GC — not to be confused with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, from which it split in 1968 — was responsible for a number of vicious terror attacks in Israel in the 1970s and 1980s, including one against a school bus in northern Israel that killed nine children and three adults.

The PFLP-GC largely went underground in the late 1980s, working behind the scenes with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group, but it reemerged in 2011 with the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, fighting alongside Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

The alleged strike comes amid heightened tensions between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, with both sides issuing threats.

At a conference earlier this month, IDF Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva said Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah was “close to making a mistake that could plunge the region into a big war.” Several days later, the IDF dropped flyers in southern Lebanon warning against border incursions.

Speaking at a “Liberation Day” marking the 23rd anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal of military forces from southern Lebanon, Nasrallah said Israeli leaders should “be careful and not make wrong calculations.”

“Any mistake might blow up the entire region,” he added, directly addressing Haliva’s remarks.

AFP contributed to this report.

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