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Lebanon: Explosion kills five members of Palestinian armed group

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command blames Israel, which denies involvement
Scene from reported blast in eastern Lebanon which killed five Palestinians on 31 May 2023 (Screengrab)
Scene from reported blast in eastern Lebanon which killed five Palestinians on 31 May 2023 (Screengrab)

Five members of a Palestinian armed group died in an explosion in Lebanon on Wednesday morning.

The Syrian government-backed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) said the overnight blast was caused by an Israeli air strike on one of its sites near the Lebanese-Syrian border in Qusaya village in the Bekaa Valley.

However, senior Israeli officials denied any involvement, according to Israeli media. 

A Lebanese security source told AFP the blast was the result of an old rocket exploding in an arms depot.

A statement by the PFLP-GC said the air strikes killed five of its members, including soldiers, and wounded 10 others.

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“The growing resistance will respond to this crime and will not be intimidated by the Zionist threats,” the group said. 

Abu Kifah Ghazi, a representative of the PFLP-GC in Lebanon, told Reuters that fighter jets were heard over the site overnight.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli military told AFP "this is not IDF activity".

In 2019, a suspected Israeli air strike hit a site belonging to a Palestinian group in Qusaya, but left no casualties. 

Israeli has for years conducted air strikes in Syria targeting Palestinian, Lebenese and Iranian armed groups. The Israeli military almost never claims responsibility for such attacks.

Israel-Lebanon tensions

The Wednesday blast comes as cross-border tensions mount between Israel and Lebanon. 

In March, Israel said it killed a man who crossed the border from Lebanon into northern Israel, planted a roadside bomb and detonated it, seriously wounding a man.

No Palestinian or Lebanese groups claimed responsibility for the bombing.  

A month later, a barrage of rockets was fired into Israel from Lebanon as tensions over Israeli assaults on worshippers in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque escalated. Two Israelis were slightly wounded. 

There was no claim of responsibility for the rockets.

Israel blamed Hamas and responded by bombing locations in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, claiming they belonged to the Palestinian group. No injuries were reported. 

Hezbollah, the Lebanese movement that controls southern Lebanon and is an enemy of Israel, previously said it supports "all measures" taken by Palestinians in response to Israeli aggressions.

Earlier this month, the Israeli military intelligence chief Aharon Haliva said the prospect of an escalation with Lebanon that could deteriorate into war “is not low”.

He warned that Hezbollah, which is close to Hamas, was “close to making a mistake that could plunge the region into a big war”. 

The Israeli military also dropped flyers in southern Lebanon, warning against cross-border incursions.

Hezbollah’s chief, Hassan Nasrallah, quickly responded to the threats by warning Israeli leaders to “be careful and not make wrong calculations”.

Although Hezbollah and Israel fought during Israel's 2006 invasion of Lebanon, which left 160 Israelis and 1,200 Lebanese dead, there have been little more than minor incidents since then.

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