BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman said the car bomb attack in the Beirut southern suburbs was a "terrorist act" that bore the fingerprints of Israel.
The car bomb attack in the Beirut southern suburb of Ruwaiss - a stronghold of Hezbollah- claimed the lives of at least 16 people and wounded over 200. Security sources earlier put the death toll at 22.
“This is a criminal act that bears the fingerprints of terrorism and Israel and is aimed to destabilize Lebanon and deal a blow to the resilience of the Lebanese,” Sleiman said.
Hezbollah’s political rival in Lebanon, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri condemned the attack and called on the Lebanese not to be dragged to strife.
Hariri described the suburbs explosion as a “horrific crime” that targeted innocent civilians in the southern suburbs.
“The blast is part of a terrorist scheme that aims to sow strife and evil across Lebanon which is grappling to stay at bay from the crisis in the region,” Hariri said in a statement released by his media office.
In a statement released by his media office, Speaker Nabih Berri blamed Israel for the massive explosion and urged the Lebanese to unite in the face of looming dangers.
“This crime only serves the Israeli enemy that is working on dealing a blow to the components of national unity in Lebanon,” Berri added.
Hezbollah that has come under wide condemnation for fighting alongside the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad in several regions in Syria has yet to issue an official statement about the blast.
But echoing Hariri and Berri, Hezbollah MP Ali Fayyad told NBN TV that the explosion was a “very dangerous act” but highlighted that Hezbollah and its supporters will not be dragged to strife.
Fayyad said regardless of the perpetrators “in case it’s Israel or terrorist organizations” that stand behind the attack the Lebanese must unite. Several Syrian rebel groups issued threats against Hezbollah and vowed to target it.
Shortly after the explosion on Thursday, a previously unheard of group calling itself the “Brigade of Aisha, the Mother of the Faithful” claimed responsibility for the attack.
“I ask our supporters to remain calm,” Fayyad said. “We should all unite at this stage to find solutions to our problems.”
For her part, U.S. Ambassador Maura Connelly condemned the attack and called on Lebanese groups to remain calm and exercise self-restraint.
Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi “strongly condemned” the blast on the southern suburbs and passed on condolences to the victims’ families.
Lebanese political leaders from across the divide also condemned the car bomb attack in the Beirut southern suburbs – a stronghold of Hezbollah- which claimed the lives of 20 people and wounded over 120.
Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt condemned what he called the “terrorist attack” which targeted “innocent civilians.” He accused Israel of plotting the afternoon blast.
Jumblatt extended his condolences to the residents of the Beirut southern suburbs. The Druze leader urged for a swift formation of a new national unity government government, where all political groups will be represented, in a bid to avoid the country further deterioration of the security situation.
Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam dubbed the attack as “barbaric and cowardly” adding that it could be confronted through the Lebanese people’s unity and their insistence to solve their divergences.
Hezbollah's Christian ally Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun said "extremist rhetoric" adopted by the majority of Lebanese groups stood behind the attack. "No one is innocent," Aoun said.
Head of the Future Parliamentary bloc former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora also condemned the attack saying he felt “anger and compassion” for the victims.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said attacks on any specific region in Lebanon were tantamount to an attack on Lebanon as a whole. He called on security forces to exert necessary efforts to uncover perpetrators.