BEIRUT: A car bomb rocked south Beirut on Tuesday, injuring at least 53 people in the most serious incident in the stronghold of Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah movement since the start of the Syrian conflict.
The international community was swift to condemn the attack, with the United Nations Security Council renewing its appeal for all groups to stay out of the Syrian war despite growing cross border attacks.
The United States condemned the bombing “in the strongest possible terms,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
“We strongly support the efforts of the Lebanese armed forces and the internal security forces to restore stability and maintain calm in Beirut and throughout Lebanon and we condemn any activity that targets or puts at risk civilians,” Psaki added.
Lebanese politicians from across the spectrum quickly condemned the blast, including President Michel Sleiman who called for an end “to such tactics . . . and respect for the security of all Lebanese citizens.”
Former prime minister and opposition leader Saad Hariri, much of whose Sunni constituency in Lebanon backs the Syrian uprising and has been angered by Hezbollah’s intervention, warned that the country must “avoid sliding into wars that will only mean more division for Lebanon.”
Officially neutral in Syria’s conflict, Lebanon is deeply divided into pro- and anti-Assad camps.
Hezbollah and its allies back Assad, who adheres to the Alawite offshoot of Shiite Islam, while the Sunni-led opposition supports rebels seeking his ouster.
The European Union (EU) also condemned the bombing and said it showed the need for unity.
“This appalling act of violence underlines the need for all Lebanese to maintain their national unity and actively work to preserve peace, safety and stability in Lebanon,” said Michael Mann, spokesman for the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.