Men gather near burning cars at the site of an explosion in Beirut's southern suburbs, July 9, 2013.
Men gather near burning cars at the site of an explosion in Beirut's southern suburbs, July 9, 2013.

BEIRUT, LEBANON - A car bomb has shaken a Beirut district seen as a stronghold of the Lebanese Shi'ite movement Hezbollah. The attack comes amid an increase in sectarian tension in Lebanon over the war in neighboring Syria.  

The bombing hit on what was for some Muslims the first day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The explosion shattered windows and sent shards flying into the street. More than 50 bystanders were injured, most sustaining wounds from broken glass.

The blast left a crater more than two meters deep in a parking lot. Plumes of smoke blackened the sky, and nearby cars smoldered. Ambulances and fire trucks rushed to the blast site.

The mainly Shia residential neighborhood of Bir al-Abed soon was packed with angry crowds carrying posters of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Many people were quick to blame Sunni Muslims or the Syrian opposition for the attack.

A shopkeeper on the street, Ali Atwa, sounded a defiant note. “If they are trying to terrorize us through explosions and death, we say that we are Shi'ite, and we do not care about death. We run to death when we are in the right.  And when we are in the right, nothing scares us."

Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel arrived on the scene shortly after the blast, but was forced to flee after a mob began throwing bottles and other objects at him. Hezbollah Security forces fired into the air to disperse the crowds.

Since the start of the civil war in Syria more than two years ago, neighboring Lebanon has seen a worsening of sectarian tensions.

Hezbollah is helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fight against a revolt led by Syria's Sunni majority.  

This is the second attack on Beirut’s southern suburbs in recent months. In May, two rockets were fired into the area, injuring four people.

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