Hizbullah explosion in Lebanon caused by hidden arms cache

Footage taken by IDF unmanned aerial vehicles showed smoke rising from a southern Lebanon home; there were no casualties from the blast.

lebanon explosion 311 (photo credit: AP)
lebanon explosion 311
(photo credit: AP)
An explosion that rocked a home in southern Lebanon on Friday was caused by a Hizbullah arms cache secretly stored inside the three-story building, the IDF claimed on Saturday.
There did not appear to be any casualties from the blast, which set off a large fire, shown on video footage taken by IDF unmanned aerial vehicles dispatched to the home in the village of Shehabiyeh. The UAV footage showed a pillar of smoke rising from the home and a group of people pushing a car out to the street below.
Witnesses said Hizbullah officials sealed off the area, pushing away journalists and cameramen. Hizbullah issued a statement saying there were no casualties, but no comments were made over the nature of the explosion or whether the building had been used to store weapons.
Last October, an explosion in another home went off in the southern village of Tayr Filsay. Located about 40 kilometers from the border with Israel, the home belonged to Abdul Nasser Issa, a low-level Hizbullah operative.
That time the IAF also dispatched a drone which filmed Hizbullah operatives removing what appeared to be missiles from the house and loading them onto a truck. The drone then followed the truck which drove to a nearby village and unloaded the weaponry at another home.
Last July, a Hizbullah arms cache accidentally exploded in the southern village of Hirbet Selm, about 20 km north of the border with Israel. The cache was hidden inside a home in the village and contained dozens of 122mm Katyusha rockets as well as high-powered machine guns.
According to the IDF’s Northern Command, Hizbullah has thousands of similar arms caches scattered throughout all of southern Lebanon’s 160 villages.
The homes are usually connected to tunnels which could allow guerrilla fighters to move between battlefields and surprise Israeli forces.
Meanwhile Saturday, a Lebanese newspaper reported that the US will continue to supply the Lebanese Armed Forces with equipment and weapons estimated to be worth approximately $100 million despite an earlier freeze to aid.
Al-Nahar quoted diplomatic sources as saying that Washington had urged both Israel and Lebanon to continue showing restraint toward each other and to refrain from making threats and other provocative behavior.
Last month the US briefly halted the supply of military aid to the LAF following violent border clashes with the IDF, which left an Israeli officer, three Lebanese soldiers and a journalist dead.
The US State Department has reportedly been working to allay the concerns of members of Congress who called to put a hold on funding.
“This incident was tragic and entirely avoidable,” Rep. Nita Lowey (D-New York) said following the August 3 incident.
“US assistance is intended to enhance our safety and that of our allies.”
Lowey chairs the House appropriations subcommittee that authorizes such funds.
Similarly, House Foreign Affairs chairman Howard Berman (D-California) also applied a hold, citing more general concerns about “reported Hizbullah influence on the Lebanese Armed Forces.”
State Department spokesman P.J.
Crowley has previously defended US military assistance to the Lebanese military as something that’s “in [the US’s] national interest and contributes to stability in the region.”
Meanwhile, Ambassador to the US Michael Oren told AFP on Friday that Hizbullah has an arsenal of approximately 15,000 rockets amassed on Lebanon’s border with Israel, including some with a long enough range to hit the southern city of Eilat.
“The Syrian-Iranian backed Hizbullah poses a very serious threat to Israel... Hizbullah today now has four times as many rockets as it had during the 2006 Lebanon war. These rockets are longer-range. Every city in Israel is within range right now, including Eilat,” he said.
Oren also expressed Israel’s concerns over Hizbullah’s concealment of the weapons.
“In 2006, many of their missiles were basically out in the open, in silos and the Israeli air force was able to neutralize a great number of them... Today those same missiles have been placed under hospitals, and homes and schools because Hizbullah knows full well if we try to defend ourselves against them, we will be branded once again as war criminals.”
Hilary Leila Krieger and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.