(AP/Mohammed Zaatari)

Weapons stored in the Burj Shamali refugee camp in Lebanon exploded Friday night.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

Residents of a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon said weapons stored by Hamas in a mosque caused a massive explosion that rocked the UN-administered camp on Friday night.

Lebanese authorities have not yet confirmed the number dead and injured in the Burj Shamali refugee camp, which is located in the southern Lebanese coastal city of Tyre. Some reports said as many as 12 people were killed.

The refugee camp is administered by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). In practice, the Lebanese military does not enter Palestinian refugee camps on its soil, which are ruled by terror factions associated with Hamas or Fatah. Burj Shamali is home to around 25,000 Palestinians.

Hamas initially said a weapons cache “for defensive purposes” exploded. But a subsequent statement issued on Saturday claimed that the fire was started by an electrical fault in a warehouse containing oxygen cannisters for COVID patients.

But residents told reporters the blast was caused when a fire started by a diesel tanker spread to a mosque where the weapons were stored. In videos posted on social media, secondary explosions, likely caused by weapons, could clearly be heard.

Hamas Operations in Lebanon

Lebanese reports said that the site was not associated with Hezbollah.

Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth daily recently reported that Hamas has been quietly developing its own forces in Lebanon in hopes of pressuring Israel’s northern front. According to the Yedioth report, this effort is being spearheaded by Hamas commander Salah al-Arouri, who is based in Turkey. Hezbollah has reportedly given Hamas freedom to build itself up, but also maintains what Yedioth called “veto-power” over cross-border terror attacks.

The blast comes at a sensitive moment for Hezbollah. On Tuesday, an appeals court gave a green light to Tarek Bitar, an investigator probing the massive explosion that leveled entire neighborhoods of Beirut. Hezbollah has sought to have Bitar removed from the investigation. Many believe that weapons belonging to Hezbollah were the cause of that blast.

According to an IDF assessment, between one-quarter and one-third of the buildings in most Southern Lebanese villages serve Hezbollah’s military apparatus and residents are fed up. Command and control centers, weapon stashes, tunnel entrances, sniper posts, rocket launchers and lookout posts are embedded in or in close proximity to homes, schools, mosques and hospitals.

Hamas uses the same human shield doctrine in Gaza.

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