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Lebanon says Israel behind car bomb targeting Hamas official

Lebanese Interior Minister Nouhad Mashnuq

Beirut, Lebanon | AFP | Lebanese authorities on Friday said Israel was involved in a car bomb blast that targeted an official of the Palestinian movement Hamas in southern Lebanon earlier this month.

Mohammad Hamdan was wounded when a bomb placed in his car detonated in the southern port city of Sidon on January 14.

Hamdan did not appear to have a public or political role in Hamas, but according to a Palestinian security source, he was a member of the organisation’s security structure.

On Friday, the press office of Lebanese Interior Minister Nouhad Mashnuq said one of the perpetrators had been coordinating with Israel.

In a statement distributed to reporters, it said investigators were able to arrest “one of the main perpetrators of the crime, who confessed to being tasked by Israeli intelligence”.

The statement did not specify the suspect’s nationality, but said investigators seized “very advanced communications mechanisms from his home, and correspondence between him and his handlers.”

Hamas also accused Israel of involvement in the attack against Hamdan.

The Palestinian Islamist group has fought three wars with Israel in the past decade and is based in Gaza, but it operates branches elsewhere in the Middle East including Lebanon.

Tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon, many of them in 12 camps across the country.

The most densely-populated is Ain al-Hilweh, which lies near Sidon and is home to an estimated 61,000 Palestinians, including 6,000 who have fled the war in neighbouring Syria.

By longstanding convention, Lebanese authorities do not enter Palestinian camps, where security is instead left to joint Palestinian security forces.

These units — which include Hamas, rival Palestinian faction Fatah and other groups — have fought several battles with jihadist groups inside Ain al-Hilweh.

In 2010, Lebanon sentenced a former security officer to death for collaborating with Israel to assassinate two Islamic Jihad leaders in Sidon.

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