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blast in hezbollah stronghold 6Here is an update on the powerful car bomb explosion that tore through a bustling south Beirut neighborhood that is a stronghold of Hezbollah on Thursday, killing and injuring scores and trapping dozens of others in an inferno of burning cars and buildings in the bloodiest attack yet on Lebanese civilians linked to Syria’s civil war.

The death toll in the blast that rocked Beirut’s southern suburb of Dahieh on Thursday rose to 24 according to a report by the Lebanese Red Cross.

The number of wounded rose to 248 according to the report.

Over 300 families were displaced as a result of the Dahieh blast, MTV reported

Army Command urged the relatives of the victims in a statement to undergo DNA tests in order to help identify the casualties.

55 to 60 kilograms of TNT were used in the bomb , LBCI television reported
The bomber was riding in a black 2002 BMW 735 when he detonated the explosive, according to MTV.

Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told Voice of Lebanon (VOL) that video camera footage is being studied to find the attacker and determine whether it was a suicide bomber that carried out Dahieh attack.

“We cannot jump to conclusion ahead of the investigations,” he said adding :“We must be given enough time to find the leads.”

A group calling itself the Brigades of Aisha Umm al-Moemeneen claimed responsibility for the bombing in a YouTube video and threatened further attacks over Hezbollah’s involvement in the fighting in Syria.

Israeli President Shimon Peres said he was surprised by President Michel Suleiman’s accusation that Israel was behind the Dahieh blast, according to a report by al-Mayadeen TV. Also an official at the Israeli Foreign Ministry denied that Israel was linked to Thursday’s Dahieh blast, MTV reported

The Civil Defense urged citizens to leave the area of the Dahieh blast over fears of the collapse of the balconies of the buildings that were damaged in the attack, VOL reported.

Caretaker Agriculture Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hassan,who is also a key Hezbollah official was the first politician to head to the area to inspect the scene of the blast, MTV reported.

President Suleiman held talks with caretaker PM Najib Miqati at the presidential palace to discuss the explosion. They later held a meeting for the Higher Defense Council which was headed by Suleiman. Following the meeting the council said: “We requested that the security agencies to exert all efforts in order to apprehend those behind terrorist attacks in Lebanon.”

Vice President of Higher Shiite Islamic Council Abdul Amir Qabalan said after visiting the scene of Dahieh blast: “We must take a united stand in order to defend our people.”

Grand Mufti Mohammad Rachid Qabbani denounced in a phone call with Speaker Nabih Berri and Vice President and Qabalan the Dahieh bombing.

Residents of the rebel-held Syrian city of Raqqa celebrated the devastating car bomb attack by offering sweets to passers-by and holding a banner reading: “Distributing sweets on the occasion of the explosion in Beirut’s Dahieh.” According to a report by NOW.

But Luay al-Meqdad, media and political co-ordinator for the Free Syrian Army issued a statement in which he” denounced the bombing as a terrorist act that ” targeted the security and stability of Lebanon and our Lebanese brothers which we consider a red line”. He offered condolences to the relatives of the victims and wished speedy recovery for the wounded.

Hezbollah openly joined the fight in Syria several months ago , and the group’s fighters were instrumental in helping the Syrian regime regain control of the strategic town of Qusair near the Lebanese border.

Several Lebanese leaders including the president have been urging Hezbollah to abide by Lebanon’s disassociation policy with regards to Syria and bring back its fighters to Lebanon.

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