Explosions rocked a Hamas weapons depot in a refugee camp in southern Lebanon on Friday night, according to a Palestinian source in the camp and a Lebanese security official. Hamas, however, said in a statement on Saturday that the blast was caused by an electrical fault in a warehouse containing oxygen and gas cylinders for coronavirus patients, as well as detergents and disinfectants.
The director of the Palestinian Red Crescent in Lebanon said Saturday morning that it had treated five people who were injured in the incident in the Burj Shamali camp south of the port city of Tyre, and that he was unaware of any deaths or additional injuries. A Palestinian doctor who resides in the camp meanwhile said there were no deaths or injuries and that the blasts occurred when oxygen canisters caught fire.
Earlier, Palestinian and Lebanese media outlets reported that there were 10-12 injuries. The Lebanese military has begun investigating the cause of the explosions, and according to local reports had declared the area closed to the public. Palestinian groups in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip did not publicly react to the reports, and the Palestinian ambassador in Lebanon, Ashraf Dabbour, arrived at the scene to observe the damage.
According to Lebanon's state-run National News Agency, 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.
There were conflicting reports about the cause of the incident. Shehab News Agency, considered close to Hamas, quoted a Palestinian source as saying the explosion was caused by the oxygen canisters.
However, residents also said that a fire started in a diesel tanker and spread to a nearby mosque controlled by the Palestinian militant group. The fire triggered explosions of some weapons that appeared to have been stored inside the mosque, according to the residents.
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A number of armed Palestinian factions, including Hamas and the Fatah Movement, hold effective control over roughly a dozen Palestinian camps in Lebanon, which Lebanese authorities by custom do not enter.
Israeli security sources believe Hamas began developing its infrastructure in the Palestinian refugee camps of southern Lebanon in 2014, in a bid to enable the launch of rocket fire from the north in the event of confrontation in the Gaza Strip.