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Denies dozens killed; locals say weapons ignited in mosque

Hamas claims COVID oxygen bottles, not weapons, exploded in Lebanon blast

Palestinian terror group rails at ‘misleading media campaign,’ says fire that set off explosions was caused by electrical short-circuit

A picture taken on December 11, 2021 shows the shattered windows and blackened walls of a mosque damaged in a blast inside the Burj al-Shemali refugee camp for Palestinians outside the southern Lebanese port city of Tyre. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)
A picture taken on December 11, 2021 shows the shattered windows and blackened walls of a mosque damaged in a blast inside the Burj al-Shemali refugee camp for Palestinians outside the southern Lebanese port city of Tyre. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

BEIRUT — The Palestinian terror group Hamas claimed Saturday that explosions that shook a refugee camp in southern Lebanon were caused by an electrical short-circuit in a storage area for oxygen bottles used to treat coronavirus patients.

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency (NNA) had reported that arms stored for Hamas exploded Friday in the Burj al-Shamali camp, killing and injuring a number of people. A security official also said the explosions caused casualties but did not give a breakdown.

Hamas in a statement Saturday described the explosions as an “incident,” adding that a fire in the refugee camp in the southern port city of Tyre caused limited damage. It gave no word on casualties but residents in the camp said at least one person was killed.

Hamas said the oxygen bottles and containers of detergents stored at the camp were to be distributed as part of its aid work.

“Hamas condemns the misleading media campaign and the spread of false news that accompanied the incident,” the terrorist group said in its statement. It added that reports about the cause of the blast and the “deaths of dozens” were baseless.

The denial came after a Hamas source told a Lebanese newspaper the arms cache that exploded was “for defense.” The source also confirmed the blast was caused by a fire.

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

Immediately after the blasts, Lebanese troops deployed around the camp and briefly prevented people from entering or leaving.

NNA said the state prosecutor in southern Lebanon has asked security agencies and arms experts to inspect the Hamas arms storage site inside the camp.

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.

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