BEIRUT: Two rockets slammed into a southern Beirut suburb Sunday, wounding four people, witnesses told The Daily Star, in an attack widely described as an “act of sabotage.”
One of the rockets hit a car dealership located near Mar Mikhael church, witnesses said, while the other was in the neighborhood of Maroun Misk.
Witnesses said the second rocket hit the balcony of a residential building in the Shiyyah area shortly before 7 a.m. local time.
The wounded, all Syrian workers, had been sleeping at the dealership when the rocket had struck, the witnesses said, adding that the four were transported to a nearby hospital for treatment.
Security sources said 107-mm rockets were used in the rare attacks on the southern suburb of the Lebanese capital. Hezbollah maintains its main offices in the southern suburb.
The incident came 12 hours after Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah confirmed the group's participation in the fighting in Syria and promised that his group would continue fighting until victory.
Hezbollah MP Ali Ammar said that the attacks in Beirut could not intimidate his party and called on the Lebanese to unite and confront the “Israeli-American” plot to provoke strife in the region.
“We have experienced similar incidents before and the resistance, with its history and sacrifices, is not intimidated by such rockets,” he told reporters after inspecting the damage in Shiyyah.
Hours after the incident, the Lebanese military managed to identify the launch site.
In a statement, the Army said it found two launch pads on the outskirts of the village of Aitat, Mount Lebanon, which lies southeast of the Beirut suburb. The National News Agency said security forces were also searching for a third rocket that was launched between Bsaaba and Aitat that had failed to explode.
It was not immediately clear who fired the rockets on the on the locations in the southern suburb which were immediately cordoned off the Lebanese Army soon after the incident.
Asked whether the Free Syria Army may have been involved, caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, who spoke to reporters in the southern suburb, said: “This is mere speculation.
The FSA denied any involvement.
“We have nothing to do with the attacks and we issued an official statement denying any involvement in such an act,” FSA spokesman Louay Meqdad told The Daily Star.
The NNA said Military Tribunal Judge Saqr Saqr tasked the Military Police with conducting preliminary investigations to uncover the circumstances surrounding the rocket attacks and to identify their source.
Lebanese officials almost unanimously described the incident as an “act of sabotage” with the intent of destabilizing the country.
“President Michel Sleiman denounced the launching of the two rockets on the southern suburb this morning, describing those behind the incident as terrorist saboteurs who do not want peace and stability for Lebanon or the Lebanese,” a statement from his office said.
Lebanon’s caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn said the incident was “an attempt to tamper with stability and security.”
“What is certain is that the [rocket attacks] were an attempt to create a fissure among Lebanese ranks and drag the strife to Lebanon,” he said, according to the NNA.
Charbel, who also described the incident as an “act of sabotage,” said he feared for Lebanon given the crisis in neighboring Syria.
“I hope what is happening in Syria will not happen in Lebanon,” he told reporters at the scene of one of the rocket attacks.
A spate of security incidents linked to the crisis in Syria has edged Lebanon toward further instability. A fiery speech of Hezbollah’s growing involvement in Syria by the group’s secretary-general over the weekend also raised tension in the country.
Speaking in Abu Dhabi, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told journalists France "very strongly condemns" the incident in Beirut, reported Agence France Presse. He also stressed it was crucial to "avoid the war in Syria becoming a war in Lebanon."
The morning rocket attacks shook many of the residents in the city.
Abu Ali Qbeisi, the owner of the car dealership struck in one of the attacks, said there was a clear link to incidents in the southern suburb with Nasrallah’s speech a day earlier.
“This is a message, a reply to Nasrallah,” Qbeisi told a local television station.
“Just as Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah vowed victory, we will not be frightened by them,” he said. “Whatever they do, we are not afraid and long live Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah,” Qbeis said.
Nasrallah revealed Saturday the large-scale involvement of his party in the war in neighboring Syria, saying his party’s engagement of rebel forces aimed at protecting the resistance group.
During his one-hour speech, Nasrallah also urged that Lebanon be spared any armed confrontation that could spill over from Syria.
“We are fighting in Syria, you are fighting in Syria, let us continue to fight there,” he said. “Put Lebanon aside.” - Additional reporting by Thomas El-Basha