Car bomb wounds Hamas official in south Lebanon

SIDON - An official of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas was wounded on Sunday in a car bomb blast in Lebanon's southern port city of Sidon. Hamas's Lebanon branch named the wounded man as its "staff member" Mohammed Hamdan.

"The blast wounded his leg, destroyed his car and damaged the building. Preliminary evidence points to Zionist (involvement) behind this crime," it said in a statement.

A military source told AFP that a BMW "detonated, wounding Hamas official Mohammed Hamdan", and Lebanon's army said a "500-gramme bomb" had been placed in his vehicle. An AFP journalist in Sidon saw the burnt-out vehicle, a silver BMW, in a parking lot of an apartment building where Hamdan lived.

Firefighters arrived to put out the flames and Lebanese security forces quickly cordoned off the area. "All civilians get back!" shouted an officer, ushering curious residents away from the charred car.  The Red Cross confirmed there was only one person wounded in the blast and said he had been transported to hospital in a civilian vehicle.

Hamdan did not appear to have a public or political role in Hamas, but a Palestinian security source told AFP that he was a member of the organisation's security apparatus.  "Hamdan is an official in Hamas's security service. His work is linked to internal Palestinian affairs," the source said. "Because of the nature of his work, the fingers are pointed to the Israeli enemy."

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel in the last decade and is based in the Gaza strip, 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.

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