A car bomb ripped through a Moslem working class neighborhood near a Syrian checkpoint in west Beirut Friday, killing seven people and wounding 47, police said.
A yellow Mercedes-Benz packed with 33 pounds of TNT exploded between a pharmacy and a gas station in the Cola district at 10:40 a.m. about 20 yards from a Syrian checkpoint, police said.They said most of the victims were Lebanese civilians from the gas station and three adjacent high-rise apartment buildings that were severely damaged.
Syrian troops cordoned off the blast scene. They fired in the air to clear traffic path for ambulances rushing victims to hospitals, police said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, which appeared aimed at Syria's law-enforcing mission in the Moslem sector of the Lebanese capital.
The Syrians, who sent troops to west Beirut to quell fighting among militias, maintain a military intelligence base near Afif Tibi Street in the Cola district a few yards from the road checkpoint.
"We have not been informed of any Syrian casualties," said a police officer on the scene, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"I didn't see anything. I simply heard a huge explosion that hurled me in the air and i felt my bones were broken when I landed on the floor of my apartment," said Fatima Zirikli, a 35-year-old Lebanese housewife.
"We saw something like lightning and then an ear-splitting blast rained glass shards on us. We were flat on our bellies," said Ahmad Muti, an employee at the gas station.
At least three Lebanese news photographers were roughed up by the Syrians as they tried to shoot pictures of the wreckage.
Reporters counted 19 parked cars destroyed, six of them gutted, smoldering piles of twisted metal.
It was the 10th car bombing in Lebanon this year and raised the overall casualty toll in such attacks to 103 killed and 351 injured.
The previous car bomb blew up in Christian east Beirut's Ashrafiyeh residential district Monday, killing one civilian and wounding another.
Car bomb attacks are a by-product of Lebanon's 13-year-old civil war between Moslems and Christian factions. The conflict has claimed more than 130,000 lives since it broke out in 1975.