Israeli ministers downplay accusations Israel behind Lebanon car bomb
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Israeli ministers downplay accusations Israel behind Lebanon car bomb

Israel Katz: 'If we'd been involved' in attack on top Hamas official, 'this wouldn't have ended with him lightly wounded'

Lebanese security forces check a damaged vehicle following a car bomb blast in the southern Lebanese port city of Sidon on January 14, 2018.  (AFP PHOTO / Mahmoud ZAYYAT)
Lebanese security forces check a damaged vehicle following a car bomb blast in the southern Lebanese port city of Sidon on January 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Mahmoud ZAYYAT)

Intelligence Minister Israel Katz implied Sunday that Israel was not behind the explosion that wounded a top Hamas official in Lebanon earlier, saying that if Israel had been, the man would not have escaped with minor wounds.

In an interview with the right-wing Galei Israel radio station Sunday, Katz was asked if Israel had a hand in the bombing. “If we’d been involved, this wouldn’t have ended with him lightly wounded,” he said.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also deflected accusations that Israel was responsible.

“Every day in the Middles East there are dozens of explosions that they try and pin on Israel, so let’s not react to this too seriously,”  Lieberman told Hadashot news.

Ayman Shanaa, a Hamas official in Lebanon, said Mohammad Hamdan was “injured lightly in the legs by a car bombing,” but a medical official source said his wounds were severe.

Video from the scene in which Hamas official Mohammad Hamadan in Lebanon was targeted in a car bombing in Sidon, Lebanon. (YouTube)

Lebanese news outlet Al Mayadeen, affiliated with the Hezbollah terror group, was one of a few media sites that reported Israeli aircraft were in the area of the explosion. Hamas’s political bureau in Lebanon also suggested Israel may have been involved.

“The occupation is the only beneficiary of harming security in Lebanon. We will leave it to the competent security authorities to investigate the explosion that targeted one of our [comrades] in Sidon,” the terror group said, in a statement carried on its Al-Aqsa TV news outlet.

Hamdan was hit in “the explosion of a bomb placed under a BMW brand car,” a military source told AFP.

Initial reports said Hamdan was the brother of Senior Hamas leader Osama Hamdan, but the claim was widely denied.

The explosion occurred while he was opening the door of his vehicle.

An AFP journalist in Sidon saw the burnt-out vehicle in a parking lot. A medical source at the scene told AFP that Hamdan had suffered serious wounds to his legs while opening the door to his car, and was taken to a hospital.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians live in Lebanon, many of them in 12 camps across the country.

The most densely populated of those camps is Ain al-Hilweh, which lies near Sidon and is home to some 61,000 Palestinians, including 6,000 who have fled the war in neighboring Syria.

In 2006, two members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group were killed in the same neighborhood in Sidon when a bomb planted in a vehicle detonated as they passed near it. Israel was blamed for the attack.

Dov Lieber and Agencies contributed to this report

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