5 Palestinian fighters killed in Lebanon blast blamed on Israel

Al-Jazeera  /  May 31, 2023

Israeli sources deny involvement in the explosion at a PFLP-GC base near the Syrian border.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) has blamed Israel for the killing of five of its members in a blast in eastern Lebanon, near the Syrian border.

Anwar Raja, a PFLP-GC official, said an Israeli strike on Wednesday hit positions in the Lebanese town of Qusaya. He said 10 people were wounded, of which two were in critical condition.

However, unnamed Israeli sources told news agencies that Israel was not involved in the attack. No official comment came from Israel, nor from the Lebanese army or the Iran-backed Hezbollah group.

There were conflicting reports from Lebanese and Palestinian sources that the blast was a result of an old rocket going off in an arms depot or mines exploding while they were being moved.

Another PFLP-GC official, Lebanon-based Abu Wael Issam, said his group will retaliate “at the suitable time”. He added the strike would not deter his group from “escalating the fight against the Israeli enemy”.

The group has positions along the Lebanon-Syria border as well as a military presence in both countries. It has carried out attacks against Israel in the past.

It has been rare for Israel to carry out air strikes on Lebanon in recent years. However, Israel launched raids in southern Lebanon in April, a day after dozens rockets were fired at Israel, wounding two Syrian workers and causing some property damage.

The Israeli military said at the time it targeted installations of Hamas in southern Lebanon.

The PFLP-GC is a left-wing group that broke off from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1968 and has backed the Syrian government. Its forces have fought alongside government troops in the war in Syria.

Based in Syria and Lebanon, the group has a presence in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, as well as Burj al-Barajneh in Beirut.

The group became known for major attacks against Israel, including the hijacking of an El Al jetliner in 1968 and the machine-gunning of another airliner at Zurich airport in 1969. In 1970, it planted a bomb on a Swissair flight from Zurich to Tel Aviv, killing all 47 passengers on board.

During Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1985, the PFLP-GC captured three Israeli soldiers and negotiated their release in exchange for more than 1,100 mostly Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian prisoners.


Lebanon: explosion kills five members of Palestinian armed group

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  May 31, 2023 

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command blames Israel, which denies involvement.

Five members of a Palestinian armed group died in an explosion in Lebanon on Wednesday morning.

The Syrian government-backed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) said the overnight blast was caused by an Israeli air strike on one of its sites near the Lebanese-Syrian border in Qusaya village in the Bekaa Valley.

However, senior Israeli officials denied any involvement, according to Israeli media. 

A Lebanese security source told AFP the blast was the result of an old rocket exploding in an arms depot.

A statement by the PFLP-GC said the air strikes killed five of its members, including soldiers, and wounded 10 others.

“The growing resistance will respond to this crime and will not be intimidated by the Zionist threats,” the group said. 

Abu Kifah Ghazi, a representative of the PFLP-GC in Lebanon, told Reuters that fighter jets were heard over the site overnight.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli military told AFP “this is not IDF activity”.

In 2019, a suspected Israeli air strike hit a site belonging to a Palestinian group in Qusaya, but left no casualties. 

Israeli has for years conducted air strikes in Syria targeting Palestinian, Lebanese and Iranian armed groups. The Israeli military almost never claims responsibility for such attacks.

Israel-Lebanon tensions

The Wednesday blast comes as cross-border tensions mount between Israel and Lebanon. 

In March, Israel said it killed a man who crossed the border from Lebanon into northern Israel, planted a roadside bomb and detonated it, seriously wounding a man.

No Palestinian or Lebanese groups claimed responsibility for the bombing.  

A month later, a barrage of rockets was fired into Israel from Lebanon as tensions over Israeli assaults on worshippers in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque escalated. Two Israelis were slightly wounded. 

There was no claim of responsibility for the rockets.

Israel blamed Hamas and responded by bombing locations in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, claiming they belonged to the Palestinian group. No injuries were reported. 

Hezbollah, the Lebanese movement that controls southern Lebanon and is an enemy of Israel, previously said it supports “all measures” taken by Palestinians in response to Israeli aggressions.

Earlier this month, the Israeli military intelligence chief Aharon Haliva said the prospect of an escalation with Lebanon that could deteriorate into war “is not low”.

He warned that Hezbollah, which is close to Hamas, was “close to making a mistake that could plunge the region into a big war”. 

The Israeli military also dropped flyers in southern Lebanon, warning against cross-border incursions.

Hezbollah’s chief, Hassan Nasrallah, quickly responded to the threats by warning Israeli leaders to “be careful and not make wrong calculations”.

Although Hezbollah and Israel fought during Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon, which left 160 Israelis and 1,200 Lebanese dead, there have been little more than minor incidents since then.