A Hezbollah weapons cache exploded in a small town in southern Lebanon on Monday, sending up billowing clouds of black smoke, causing widespread damage and several casualties, according to unconfirmed reports.
While there was no immediate confirmation by officials as to the cause of the explosion in the small town of Ain Qana, an unnamed source told Reuters the site was an arms depot.
UAE-based Al-Hadath, citing security sources, also reported that the explosion took place at a Hezbollah weapons storehouse. Another channel, Lebanon’s MTV, reported several injured.
A Hezbollah official confirmed there was an explosion but declined to give further details. Hezbollah security forces deployed in the area and prevented journalists from investigating on the scene.
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Residents said ambulances had carried away several of the wounded, while the National News Agency reported only limited material damage. However, sources in Hezbollah told the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International TV news channel that no one was injured in the blast.
Ain Qana is in the hilly Iqleem al-Tuffah region. A prominent Hezbollah tourist site that draws thousands of visitors a year lies on a neighboring hilltop just a ten-minute drive away.
The Lebanese Army said in a statement that its forces were at the scene to conduct an investigation into the cause of the explosion.
Lebanese state media implied that Israel may have been involved in the explosion, but emphasized that the causes “are not known.”
“The explosion that occurred in a house in the town of Ain Qana…coincided with the intensive flight of hostile Israeli military and espionage aircraft, which had not left the airspace of Nabatiyeh and Iqlim al-Tuffah since the morning,” the Lebanese National News Agency reported.
Sources in Hezbollah told LCBI that the explosion was not part of a targeted attack on senior officials in the Lebanese terror group.
Every blast in Lebanon since August’s devastating Beirut port explosion has gone viral on social media, with thousands waiting with bated breath to see whether or not a tire fire or gas blaze would turn into the next Lebanese catastrophe. Most Lebanese TV networks gave the explosion in Ein Qana wall-to-wall coverage, with experts and analysis on call to speculate about its source.
Viewers of official Hezbollah TV or one of its affiliates, however, may not have heard of the blast at all until hours later. Official Hezbollah al-Manar TV continued to broadcast reruns about its community projects and features about holy sites in south Lebanon; pro-Hezbollah al-Mayadeen ran a story on Lebanon’s financial crisis instead.
In its nightly news broadcast, an al-Manar newscaster delivered the semi-official Hezbollah line: that a house in Ain Qara had exploded due to unspecified “damages.”
“As usual, the media got up and began theorizing and pontificating and analyzing. They were so exceptional that they even beat the security services to finding out the root cause of the incident,” she said sarcastically.
The Beirut port explosion — which killed over 180 and rendered 300,000 homeless overnight — was caused by ammonium nitrate of unknown provenience. While many corrupt officials allowed the explosive material to remain in the port until the day it unleashed a firestorm in Beirut’s downtown, some evidence suggests that Hezbollah could have been involved in bringing it to Lebanon.
The explosion raised new questions about the placement of Hezbollah weapons caches in civilian areas. Hezbollah has long defended what it considers its right to possess arms as part of its “resistance” to Israel.
“Everyone knows where the weapons are. The issue of these weapons in villages and cities is now an issue of life and death. It is neither justifiable nor acceptable for Hezbollah to consider to store its weapons in such places,” Ali al-Amin, a journalist covering south Lebanon, told UAE-based al-Hadath TV.
Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.