HERMEL, Lebanon: Two small roadside bombs exploded near an Army checkpoint near Hermel Sunday, wounding four people in what a security source said was likely a targeted attack against the military. The two bombs were placed 50 meters from each other and just 200 meters from an Army checkpoint on the road leading to the southern entrance of Hermel, just seven kilometers from the city. They went off at Al-Mahatta junction connecting Hermel to the Homs-Baalbek highway.
The first bomb exploded just before 8 a.m. when a Honda SUV passed next to it, resulting in minor injuries to the car’s occupant. The second exploded seven minutes later when an Army patrol, a pickup and a van carrying schoolchildren from Hermel to Baalbek stopped to assist the SUV’s driver.
The second blast resulted in minor injuries for two Army officers and a civilian. The children were unharmed despite shrapnel striking their van.
“At 7:45 a.m., a bomb exploded on the main road at the entrance to the city of Hermel that led to the damaging of a car and [the wounding of a] citizen. And as an Army patrol was headed to inspect the area, a second bomb exploded that led to one officer and a soldier being lightly wounded as well as damage to a military vehicle,” an Army statement said.
The Army set up a security cordon around the scene of the attack, transferring the injured to nearby hospitals and closing the main road leading to Hermel for several hours.
Security forces that arrived at the scene examined the locations of the bombs, and determined that they consisted of 120-mm caliber mortar bombs linked to two cellphones.
The bombs were placed 25 cm below road level, which limited their destructiveness. They were detonated by remote control.
A security source said the modus operandi meant that it was likely the Army was the chief target of the attack, given the time between the two explosions and the proximity of the Army checkpoint.
A state of fear was palpable among civilians who happened to be using the road. One car carrying a family of five swerved off the road and flipped over, causing moderate injuries to the car’s occupants, who were taken to Hermel to be treated.
The road often features heavy traffic Sundays, as hundreds of families return from weekends spent on the Orontes River further north.
Similar incidents have occurred over the past few weeks in the Bekaa Valley. Late last month, two roadside bombs targeting a Hezbollah convoy missed their target on the Zahle-Ksara highway in the Bekaa Valley.
The Syrian opposition has repeatedly threatened to respond to Hezbollah’s increased involvement in the Syrian conflict. The resistance group alleges it is battling alongside forces loyal to President Bashar Assad to defend Lebanon from the threat of what it dubs “Takfiri groups” fighting in the ranks of the Free Syrian Army.
Liberation and Development bloc MP Yassin Jabr condemned the “cowardly attack” on the Army.
“We must not abandon the Army, but all the Lebanese should rally to this military institution that is acting with great wisdom to provide security and stability to Lebanon,” Jabr said in a statement published on the National News Agency.