BEIRUT: The international community strongly condemned Thursday’s deadly blast in Beirut’s southern suburbs while local politicians and civil groups from across the spectrum also weighed in, adding their advice on how to spare the country further violence.
The United Nations Security Council condemned the car bombing in the southern suburb of Ruwaiss, describing it as a “terrorist attack.” At least 20 people were killed and over 200 were wounded by the blast, which targeted a neighborhood considered a Hezbollah stronghold.
“Any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed,” the statement said.
The members of the Security Council stressed the need to bring the perpetrators to justice and appealed to all Lebanese “to preserve national unity in the face of attempts to undermine the country’s stability.”
They also stressed the importance for all Lebanese parties to respect Beirut’s policy of disassociation and to refrain from any involvement in the Syria crisis, consistent with their commitment in the Baabda Declaration.
Separately, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all Lebanese to remain united in the face of such “unacceptable” violence, extending his condolences to the families of the victims.
“Such acts of violence are completely unacceptable and only reinforce the determination of the international community to continue supporting Lebanon’s security and stability at a time of severe regional turbulence,” the statement said.
“During this period of heightened tensions, the secretary-general urges all Lebanese to remain united, to rally around their state institutions and to focus on safeguarding Lebanon’s security and stability.”
A statement of condemnation was issued by Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s top foreign policy official, while 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 Zoubi “strongly condemned” the blast and extended his condolences to the victims’ families.
Turkey, which recently warned that its ties with Lebanon were under threat over the recent kidnapping of two Turkish Airlines pilots in Beirut, denounced the “terrorist attack” and said it maintained its “support in solidarity with the Lebanese people.”
“Turkey hopes the perpetrators of this heinous attack are found out and brought to justice as soon as possible,” a statement from the Turkish Embassy said Friday.
The United Kingdom’s Foreign Office minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, condemned the blast and said “terrorism and extremism have no place in Lebanon,” adding his government remained committed to supporting stability in Lebanon.
France reiterated its commitment to Lebanon’s stability, adding that it was “important to shed light on this attack and that those responsible be brought to justice.”
“[Paris] calls on the Lebanese to work toward preserving national unity in accordance with the Baabda Declaration of June 2012,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Germany also indicated that the Syria crisis was to blame for the explosion, as the embassy in Beirut urged “all political forces in Lebanon to practice self-control. The will of the assassins to pull Lebanon into a spiral of violence should not pass. Everyone’s collaboration is needed in order to prevent a spillover of the Syrian conflict into Lebanon.”
Brazil’s ambassador to Lebanon, Affonso Emilio de Alencastro Massot, issued a statement in which he reiterated his government’s condemnation of “any form of terrorist act” and extended the “solidarity of Brazil and its people – which includes some 10 million of Lebanese origin – to the victims and their families.”
Similar condemnations came from the Arab League and Gen. Paolo Serra, the commander of UNIFIL peacekeeping forces in south Lebanon.
Local politicians, meanwhile, said they suspected Israel was behind the attack. In general, politicians from the March 14 camp reiterated their demand that a neutral government be formed as quickly as possible, while their March 8 rivals said that an inclusive government, representing all political factions, was called for.
President Michel Sleiman said the car bomb attack was a “terrorist act” that bore the fingerprints of Israel.
“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, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, condemned the attack and called on the Lebanese not to be dragged into strife.
Hariri described the suburbs explosion as a “horrific crime” that targeted innocent civilians.
“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, Speaker Nabih Berri blamed Israel for the massive explosion and urged 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.
Shortly after the explosion, a previously unknown group calling itself the “Brigade of Aisha, the Mother of the Faithful” claimed responsibility for the attack. In response, a spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army called the video “silly” and hinted that Syria or Iran might be behind the blast.
Progressive Socialist Party leader 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. He also called for a swift formation of a new national unity government, representing political groups, in a bid to avoid further deterioration of the security situation.
Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam dubbed the attack “barbaric and cowardly,” adding that it could be confronted through unity and the people’s insistence to solve their differences.
Hezbollah’s 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.
The head of the Future Movement’s parliamentary bloc, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, also condemned the attack, saying he felt “anger and compassion” for the victims. In a similar vein, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said that attacks on any specific region in Lebanon were tantamount to an attack on Lebanon as a whole.
Religious leaders condemned the blast, and the Maronite patriarch, Cardinal Beshara Rai, canceled a series of events in the northern region of Bsharri in solidarity with the victims of the Ruwaiss explosion.