Several large explosions rocked the Burj al-Shemali Palestinian camp in the southern Lebanese port city of Tyre on Friday, causing a number of casualties.
The camp, located about three kilometers east of Tyre and 86 kilometers south of Beirut, is a suspected Hamas weapons depot. The Lebanese army controls entrance to the camp but does not enter. Ruled by the Palestinian Liberation Organization, basic services are provided by an extensive network run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Reports cited rescue workers as claiming about a dozen casualties. The Lebanese state-run National News Agency (NNA) reported an unspecified number of deaths, but local media and civil defense workers on the scene said there had been no fatalities. A security source also told Reuters news agency that fatalities had not been recorded.
Initial reports suggested the incident began with a fire in a diesel tanker before the blaze spread to a nearby mosque controlled by Hamas. The NNA cited a Lebanese military source as saying on Friday night that “a fire in a warehouse of ammunition, weapons, and foodstuffs belonging to Hamas led to the explosion.”
Hamas said in a statement on Saturday that the explosion was caused by an electrical fault in a warehouse containing oxygen and gas cylinders for coronavirus patients, as well as detergents and disinfectants.
“After examining the circumstances, it became clear to us that it was caused by an electrical short circuit in a warehouse containing a quantity of oxygen and gas cylinders designated for coronavirus patients,” Hamas said in a statement on Saturday. “The fire damaged some properties and losses were limited,” it added, claiming that there had been only one fatality.
Shehab News Agency, seen as close to Hamas, quoted a Palestinian source as saying the explosion was caused by the ignition of oxygen canisters stored for use in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
— Ahmad El Hajj | أحمد الحاج (@AhmadElHajj007) December 10, 2021