Israel denies bombing Lebanon after blast kills 5 Palestinians
Five fighters from a pro-Syrian Palestinian militant group were killed in an accidental explosion at a base in eastern Lebanon, a Lebanese security source said Wednesday.
A spokesman for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) instead accused Israel of carrying out "overnight raids" at the base in Qusaya, near the Syrian border. Israel denied any involvement.
"An old rocket exploded in an arms depot on the base and five fighters were killed," the security source said, requesting anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The Damascus-based group has close ties with the Syrian government and its main Lebanese ally Hezbollah, and has bases in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley.
PFLP-GC spokesman Anwar Raja said Israel had carried out "overnight raids" on the base.
"Five fighters were killed," he told AFP, adding that "for now we do not have more detailed information on the operation."
The Israeli military, however, denied any involvement in the deadly blast.
"This is not IDF (Israeli army) activity," a spokeswoman told AFP.
Asked about the Israeli response, Raja attributed Israel's denial to "the sensitivity of the situation in Lebanon," a suggestion that any acknowledgement of a strike by Israel would push Hezbollah to retaliate.
In Beirut, a Lebanese military official said the explosion was the result of a blast within the base, adding that there was no airstrike. An official with a regional group allied with the Syrian government, said the explosion was the result of a “human error” that occurred when militants were handling ammunition. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity.
It has been rare for Israel to carry out airstrikes on Lebanon in recent years.
In August 2019, suspected Israeli strikes targeted the PFLP-GC in Qusaya.
In July 2015, a security official said a blast at a PFLP-GC base in Qusaya wounded seven people, while the Palestinian group blamed it on an Israeli strike.
The PFLP-GC is the only Palestinian faction to maintain bases outside Lebanon's official Palestinian refugee camps.
By longstanding convention, the Lebanese army does not enter those camps, leaving Palestinian militant groups to handle security.