Explosion Strikes South Lebanon Near Israel Border

Sky News in Arabic reports that explosion took place in Hezbollah weapons warehouse; reason for blast unclear.

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A large explosion struck southern Lebanon near the border with Israel on Monday, the Lebanese official news agency reported.

Lebanon's National News Agency said the reasons behind the early Monday blast near the border town of Tair Harfa were not clear, but Sky News in Arabic reported that the explosion took place in a weapons warehouse of the country's militant Hezbollah movement, where the organization stores a wide variety of weapons and ammunition.

There were no immediate reports on human casualties, but great damage was caused to the building, and residents told Reuters that several farm animals were killed.

Lebanese security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said Hezbollah had cordoned off the area of the explosion. According to the Voice of Lebanon radio station, the group's forces had taken control of the flames.

Andrea Tenenti, who is a spokesman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, a UN peacekeeping force in the area, said it was investigating the circumstances of the incident.

UNIFIL has about 12,000 troops and naval personnel in the country after its expansion under UN Security Council Resolution 1701 that halted the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in southern Lebanon. The south remains a Hezbollah stronghold.

This is not the first time an explosion has taken place in a weapons warehouse in South Lebanon, which is considered a Hezbollah stronghold. However, there have been a number of discoveries of weapons caches in the area that belong to criminals.

Despite domestic demands for the group to disarm, Hezbollah keeps stockpiles of weapons - including thousands of rockets - saying it will need them in the event of a new war with Israel.

On October 3, three Hezbollah members were killed when an explosion ripped through a weapons warehouse in the eastern Lebanon town of Nabi Sheet.

The situation along the Israel-Lebanon border has been tense in the past months due to the civil war in neighboring Syria and Israel's recent military operation in Gaza, coined Pillar of Defense.

Last month, Lebanese security officials said two rockets were fired from Lebanon toward Israel, but fell short and landed on Lebanese territory.

Hezbollah is an ally of the embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, while Lebanon's Sunni Muslims are backing the rebels fighting to topple his regime.

UN peacekeeping forces on the Lebanon-Israeli border, Nov. 28, 2012.Credit: Reuters

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