Lebanese NGO acted as Hezbollah front, storing arms which exploded

The arms depot in south Lebanon exploded on September 22 in a residential area, injuring a number of people and killing one Hezbollah operative.

People and members of the Lebanese army gather near the site of an explosion in the village of Ain Qana in southern Lebanon September 22, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)
People and members of the Lebanese army gather near the site of an explosion in the village of Ain Qana in southern Lebanon September 22, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER)
Hezbollah has been using a private non-governmental organization (NGO) to cover for their activities in southern Lebanon, the Israeli research organization the Alma Education Center has revealed.
On September 22, an arms depot belonging to Hezbollah exploded in the village of Ain Qana in south Lebanon, injuring several people and heightening tensions in the country, which has been on edge since the much larger explosion at Beirut port on August 4. As in the Beirut blast, the arms depot had been stored in a civilian area, making it more likely that any explosion would cause injury and potentially loss of life.
But according to the Alma Center, the depot was stored at the business premises of NGO "Peace Generation Organization for Demining," (PGOD) a front group set up by Hezbollah in 2008 with the sponsorship of "Immen Sazan Omran Pars," a private Iranian company suspected of having the patronage of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Forces.
It's official work centers around the clearance of minefields and the rehabilitation of these ares for agricultural and construction use. It also acts as an advocacy group on minefield clearance, and cares for the victims of mines. However, according to the report, the seemingly humanitarian ethos of the organization hides a secret agenda.
"Our assessment is that the explosion [in Ain Qana] exposed one of the organization’s secret goals – to disguise Hezbollah’s “human shield” tactic in south Lebanon (the use of civilian buildings in the heart of villages for storing weapons and as launch sites for missiles and rockets)," the Center said in their report.
They detail that, following the explosion, all comments made by those with links to Hezbollah gave the same story, that the building which exploded was used to store old mines which had been collected by PGOD as part of its operations. This cover story has been used in the past, for example, after two of Hezbollah's ammunition depots exploded in 2009, Hezbollah's response was to state that the explosions were caused by old ammunition collected after the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
"If the organization’s objective is in fact demining and neutralizing the threat to innocent civilian passerby of mines and unexploded ordinances scattered in the field, why then does the organization store these mines and explosives inside a civilian building in the heart of a residential area?" the Alma Center asked in their report.
"The organization’s behavioral pattern seems illogical: on one hand, it neutralizes threats to civilians and distances them from them, and on the other hand it brings those same threats to the civilians’ doorstep."
The report further notes that a Hezbollah operative was killed in the blast, but his death wasn't announced until five days later.
PGOD is not the first NGO known to act as a cover organization for Hezbollah activity. Two other well documented examples are Islamic Health Organization, which is heavily involved in the health of the Shiite community, but is also known to assist Hezbollah's military wing in times of emergency with transportation and concealment of weapons; and Green Without Borders, ostensibly an environmental NGO known to serve in an intelligence-gathering capacity on the Israel-Lebanon border.  
It appears that Hezbollah is not always particularly careful to disguise the true nature of these and other groups.
A 2017 report by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) noted that a 2013 conference organized by Hezbollah and its divisions - including Jihad al-Binaa, Hezbollah’s municipal arm, the Mahdi Scouts, the Islamic Health Commission, Peace Generation Organization for Demining, and Green Without Borders - was "unambigiously" titled “The Green Resistant South.” That conference was held under the sponsorship of the minster for agriculture.