An arms depot belonging to Hezbollah exploded in southern Lebanon on Tuesday, injuring several people and causing considerable damage in the area as shown by a rare video circulating on social media. According to Reuters the explosion rocked the village of Ain Qana in south Lebanon, a region that is a political stronghold of the heavily armed and politically powerful Hezbollah which has fought wars with neighboring Israel.
The Lebanese army and Hezbollah imposed a security cordon around the site of the explosion, and ambulances and civil defense vehicles rushed to the town. Media were banned from entering the zone of the explosion.
Contradictory reports at first appeared in the local media as to the cause of the explosion. Reports at first said the explosion was caused by a fire erupted in the village gas station. The director of the Media Center, Salem Zahran, close to Hezbollah tweeted at first that the explosion took place at a weapon depot belonging to Hezbollah and that there were no casualties. Minutes later he erased his tweet and said: "The Ain Qana fire was caused by the explosion of a center for the collection of remnants of war." Sources close to Hezbollah denied to local Lebanese Media that Israel had targeted Ali Al Roz, one of its high-profile commanders. The Secretary-General of the Red Cross, George Ketteneh, said the initial information indicates that there were no injuries. Hezbollah admitted later the site belongs to “Peace Generations Organization for Demining”which it said used the site to store old mines and unexploded ordnance, pending proper disposal.
This is not the first mysterious explosion that takes place in the south of Lebanon in one of Hezbollah’s weapons depot. From 2009 and onward a series of explosions shook the South and the Bekaa regions like in Kherbit Selem or in Tair Felsi. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) were always denied access to the site of the explosions.
UNIFIL forces according to the resolution 1701 requires them to assist the Lebanese government and its armed forces “to disarm all armed groups in Lebanon.” Also, it would accompany the LAF in the country’s south to ensure this area was “free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL.” While Ain Qana explosion is not in the UNIFIL area of operation, the mandate of these forces does not allow them to conduct a thorough investigation in accordance with the 1701 resolution.
Two years ago, Israel launched Operation Northern Shield and destroyed at least five cross-border tunnels. One tunnel originated under a house in the Lebanese border village of Kfar Kila and crossed the frontier near Israel’s northernmost town, Metula. Israeli PM identified at around the same time accused Hezbollah of converting “inaccurate projectiles” into precision-guided missiles - something Lebanon’s government has denied.
The Trump administration failed this year to push for UNIFIL to operate without any restrictions, and to be able to inspect all sites and to ensure the fully application of the resolution 1701.
These series of incidents clearly indicate the failure of the UNIFIL in applying the resolution 1701 but it also shed light on the Lebanese government’s reluctance in honoring its commitment to extend its authority over its territory through its own legitimate armed forces.
Tony Badran from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) noticed that the explosion underscores the risks associated with Hezbollah’s de facto control of Lebanon and the problem the terror group’s symbiotic relationship with internationally-funded state organs poses for U.S. policy.
The Ain Qana incidents comes after some 50 days of the Beirut ports explosion that have cost the lives of some 200 hundred people and wounded more than 6000 thousand leaving large parts of the city destroyed. Hezbollah stand accused of using the ports storage facilities for stocking highly dangerous explosive materials. Today there is no doubt that Hezbollah is continuing to bolster its cache of weapons by storing them in more urban, densely-populated locations throughout Lebanon. According to a report released by an Israel based Alma Center “28 new depots have been determined, with the highest concentration in the capital city of Beirut, the Beqaa Valley, and southern Lebanon. The 28 sites are connected explicitly to the launch, storage, and production of the terrorist group's medium-range Fateh 110 / M 600 missiles.”
Today Hezbollah does not only control the decision over the war and peace and the fate of politics in Lebanon but it is also using Lebanese civilians as human shields in any probable war with Israel.