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Beirut Car Bomb Death Toll Rises to 22, Amid Renewed Fears Hezbollah Dragging Lebanon Into Syrian Conflict

CNN reports that the death toll from a car bomb that struck a Hezbollah stronghold in southern Beirut yesterday has risen to 22. Over 200 people were injured.

The Dahiyeh district was targeted by another car bomb last July that wounded roughly 50 people. A statement issued yesterday by a previously unknown Sunni Islamist group calling itself the Brigades of Aisha claimed responsibility for both blasts.

Meanwhile The Daily Star quoted a local Hezbollah supporter declaring that they expected such attacks, a reference to threats by Sunni jihadists to target Hezbollah infrastructure in retaliation for the group’s activities on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. Hezbollah has played a critical role in assisting the regime’s efforts to erode nearly two years of rebel gains:

Iman Jabak, 43 ,and her two daughters Rawane Charara and Reine Charara were out shopping for clothes for their little brother when the blast occurred. According to Reine, Hezbollah had upped security to the maximum since attacks on the suburbs. “We’re used to it,” Reine, 18, told The Daily Star. “They promised us more and we’re ready,” she added in reference to Hezbollah’s foes.

TIME was even more explicit in linking the explosion to spillover from the Syrian conflict:

The frequently voiced fear that the Syrian crisis could engulf the region is unlikely to be realized in one earth-shattering event. Instead it will leak across borders, a contact corrosion that, once established, will likely prove impossible to eradicate. In neighboring Lebanon, it has already materialized in the form of car bombs. On Thursday evening an explosion in the Shi‘ite-dominated suburbs south of Beirut killed 22 and wounded scores. It was the second such attack following a similar bombing in July, both aimed at the powerful Shi‘ite organization Hizballah, which has actively backed the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Lebanese public figures had become increasingly vocal in recent weeks in their demands that Hezbollah untangle itself from the war, and earlier this week Samir Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese Forces party, accused the Iran-backed terror group of plunging Lebanon “into fire.”

[Photo: BBCAhmedMaher / Twitter]