Several killed as explosions rock alleged Hamas weapons cache in southern Lebanon

Officials say up to 12 people could be dead as video shows massive fireball engulfing building in Burj al-Shemali refugee camp near Tyre; arms dump said to have been in mosque

An ambulance enters the Burj Shamali Palestinian refugee camp, in the southern port city of Tyre, Lebanon, Friday, Dec. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)
An ambulance enters the Burj Shamali Palestinian refugee camp, in the southern port city of Tyre, Lebanon, Friday, Dec. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

Arms stored for the Palestinian Hamas terror group exploded in a refugee camp in southern Lebanon on Friday night, killing and wounding a number of people, the state-run National News Agency reported.

A Lebanese security official speaking on condition of anonymity said authorities have no exact numbers of the casualties yet but that there could be as many as 12 dead in the Burj Shamali camp in the port city of Tyre.

Earlier Friday, camp residents said explosions shook the camp, adding that the nature of the blasts was not immediately clear.

Ambulances rushed to the scene, residents told The Associated Press by phone.

Initial reports said a fire had started in a diesel tanker and spread to a nearby mosque controlled by the Palestinian terror group. The fire triggered then triggered some of the weapons that appeared to have been stored inside the mosque, according to the residents.

The NNA said the army cordoned off the area, preventing people from entering or leaving the camp.

NNA added that the state prosecutor in southern Lebanon has asked security agencies and arms experts to inspect the arms storage site that belongs to Hamas, adding that the site was not affiliated with the Hezbollah terror group that controls much of southern Lebanon.

However, a Palestinian official told AFP that there were no weapons at the site and that oxygen bottles had exploded.

Video posted on social media showed prolonged explosions in the area.

Last week, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported that Hamas quietly established a Lebanon branch of its Gaza-based terror group in recent years in order to open up an additional front against Israel in future conflicts.

The branch is based in Tyre, but it is believed to have other outposts throughout the country, according to Yedioth.

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

By longstanding agreement, the Lebanese army does not enter the camps, leaving security inside to Palestinian factions.

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