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Two Hezbollah members dead after Baalbek bomb
Lebanese army soldiers stand next to the wreckage of a van following an explosion in the village of Sbouba east of Baalbek in Lebanon's Bekaa valley, on December 17, 2013. (AFP PHOTO/STR)
Lebanese army soldiers stand next to the wreckage of a van following an explosion in the village of Sbouba east of Baalbek in Lebanon's Bekaa valley, on December 17, 2013. (AFP PHOTO/STR)
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HERMEL, Lebanon: Two Hezbollah members succumbed to injuries sustained in a car bomb attack that targeted the group’s training camp in Baalbek the day before, a security source told The Daily Star Wednesday.

The source, who requested to remain anonymous, said that two other Hezbollah personnel were wounded in the explosion.

The attack occurred at dawn Tuesday. Images of the site showed four burned-out vehicles, their frames mangled, strewn across a barren area near the Bekaa Valley village of Sbouba.

Hezbollah remained tight-lipped Wednesday on the number of casualties suffered, adding nothing to the party’s Al-Manar TV interview about the incident the day before.

Al-Manar’s report said a man stepped out of the rigged vehicle as soon as members of a Hezbollah convoy approached a rotation post. The car then detonated, the report said, adding that there were casualties, but conflicting reports have emerged regarding the exact sequence and nature of the events.

Numerous Hezbollah camps are located in the area and the road where the attack occurred is frequently used by the party’s vehicles, indicating that extensive surveillance preceded the attack.

Later in the day, two soldiers and a civilian were wounded after rockets slammed into Hermel.

Hezbollah has been targeted on several occasions over its military role in Syria. The group announced in May it was fighting alongside Syrian regime troops.

Meanwhile, a source close to President Michel Sleiman told The Daily Star that the president telephoned Hezbollah MP Mohammad Raad to check on those wounded in the explosion.

Sleiman’s ties with Hezbollah have cooled recently. Earlier this month, Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah accused Saudi Arabia of standing behind a twin suicide bombing that targeted the Iranian Embassy in Beirut last month.The following day, Sleiman said no “reckless” accusations without evidence should be made against Saudi Arabia, saying such actions could ruin the historical ties between the two countries.

For his part, Ali Hujeiri, the mayor of the Bekaa Valley town of Arsal, dismissed media reports that a rigged car entered Lebanon from Syria via the town.

“If they have proof that anyone from Arsal is involved, let the state arrest him,” Hujeiri told the Central News Agency.

“We always try to calm the situation down in the town. But every time a period of calm passes, they make accusations against us again, almost every time with no documents or evidence,” Hujeiri said. “Let them leave Arsal alone.”

Nasrallah and other March 8 figures argue that most rigged cars that have been used in attacks in Lebanon were prepared in the rebel-held Qalamoun Mountains and entered Lebanon via Arsal.

Dozens of Lebanese were killed and wounded in explosions which rocked the Beirut southern suburbs, Tripoli and the Iranian Embassy in recent months.

Arsal’s residents are supportive of Syrian rebels. The town hosts thousands of Syrian refugees as well.

Separately, a judicial source told The Daily Star that a military committee was still interrogating the soldier who shot dead an Israeli officer on the Lebanese-Israeli border in Ras Naqoura Sunday evening. The Army has said the border shooting was an individual action taken by the soldier.

UNIFIL, following a tripartite meeting Monday in Naqoura with representatives from the Lebanese and Israeli armies, also said the Lebanese soldier had acted alone. For its part, the U.N. Security Council condemned the border shooting that led to the killing of the Israeli soldier and raised tensions between the two enemy countries.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 19, 2013, on page 1.
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