At least 27 people have been killed by a large explosion in a southern suburb of the Lebanese capital Beirut, with scores more reported wounded.
Lebanon's Daily Star reported that the blast took place on the main road between Rwais and Bir al-Abed. The neighborhood is a stronghold of Hezbollah.
Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel confirmed that the blast was the result of car bomb.
TV footage showed dozens of residents screaming and fleeing the scene of carnage with dozens of cars in flames.
Emergency response teams rushed to the scene as thick plumes of smoke filled the sky. Hezbollah forces cordoned off the area of the blast.
Lebanese president Michel Sleiman was quick to blame 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 leading political rival in Lebanon, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, condemned the attack as a “horrific crime” that targeted innocent civilians and called on the Lebanese not to be dragged to strife.
“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 and quoted by the Daily Star.
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri also blamed Israel and urged the Lebanese to unite in the face of dangers. “This crime only serves the Israeli enemy that is working on dealing a blow to the components of national unity in Lebanon,” Berri said.
Echoing Hariri and Berri, Hezbollah MP Ali Fayyad told NBN TV that the explosion was a “very dangerous act” but said that whether the perpetrator is Israel or "terrorist organizations,” the Lebanese must unite.
U.S. Ambassador Maura Connelly condemned the attack and called on Lebanese groups to remain calm and exercise self-restraint.
Over 50 people were wounded in Bir al-Abed on July 9 when a car bomb exploded, in an attack widely seen as revenge against Hezbollah for its role in the civil war in Syria.