Twin Blasts Rock Beirut, PM Holds Emergency Cabinet Meeting

Ministers urge politicians to put all rivalries aside and work towards bolstering the government .

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Relatives and comrades carry the body of Samer Abdel-Karim Houhou, a member of Amal movement party, who was killed in the two explosions. November 13, 2015. REUTERS/Hasan Shaaban

Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam held an emergency meeting with his security cabinet and military chiefs on Friday after 44 people were killed and more than 200 wounded in a double suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State.

The blasts late on November 12, hit a residential and commercial area in a southern suburb of Beirut, a stronghold of Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah, in the latest spillover of violence from the war in neighbouring Syria.

The first attacks in more than a year on a Hezbollah bastion inside Lebanon came at a time when the group is stepping up its involvement in Syria’s civil war, now in its fifth year.

Lebanese army and civilians gather near the site of a twin suicide attack in Burj al-Barajneh, southern Beirut in Lebanon. (Photo: AP)
Lebanese army and civilians gather near the site of a twin suicide attack in Burj al-Barajneh, southern Beirut in Lebanon. (Photo: AP)

Iran-backed Hezbollah has sent troops over the border to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against Sunni Muslim insurgent groups, including the Islamic State.

Lebanon is also suffering from its own political crisis in which disputes between parties, factions and sects have stopped the government taking basic decisions and left the country without a president for 17 months.

The army established a heavy security presence around the scene of the blasts, which on Friday were still littered with debris, damaged cars and motorbikes, and shattered glass.

Funerals were held in Beirut for several of the victims later in the day, with coffins draped with the flags of Hezbollah and Amal, another Shi’ite movement.

Political Paralysis

Ministers have urged politicians to put all rivalries aside to work towards electing a president, and bolstering the government and parliament. State institutions are currently paralysed by political deadlock.

Beirut residents expressed concern after the violence, saying it raised the spectre of civil strife.

It’s been a year...with no explosions. We thought we were done with this, but were proved wrong yesterday. This explosion targeted Lebanon as whole, not only Beirut’s southern suburbs.
Rajaa, a central Beirut resident 

Hezbollah warned on Thursday of a “long war” against its enemies.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Lebanon’s security services and state institutions “not to allow this despicable act to destroy the relative calm that has prevailed in the country over the past year.”

The White House pledged to support the country as it worked to “bring those responsible for this attack to justice”. Hezbollah’s political opponents in Lebanon, including Sunni politicians, also condemned the attacks.

Syria’s civil war is increasingly playing out as a proxy battle between regional rivals, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, which support opposing sides in the conflict. The two adversaries also back opposing political forces in Lebanon.

Lawmakers convened in Beirut for a second day on Friday in the first legislative session for more than a year. The meeting aims to pass urgent financial laws to keep the state afloat, but is avoiding thorny political issues.

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