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Israel not involved in Beirut car bombing, Peres says

(JTA) — Israeli President Shimon Peres denied claims by his Lebanese counterpart that Israel was behind a recent deadly bombing in Beirut.

At a news conference Friday in Jerusalem, Peres responded to allegations made a day earlier by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, who blamed Israel for a car bombing on Thursday that killed some 20 people near a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut.

“I was surprised by the Lebanese leadership, which once again is blaming Israel for the explosion,” Peres said in an appearance with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is visiting Israel. “Blaming Israel is baseless. It is Hezbollah that is stockpiling bombs and killing people in Syria without permission from the Lebanese authorities.”

Suleiman called the attack “a criminal act that bears the fingerprints of terrorism and Israel, and is aimed to destabilize Lebanon and deal a blow to the resilience of the Lebanese,” according to a report in Lebanon’s Daily Star.

A Sunni Islamist group calling itself the Brigades of Aisha claimed responsibility for the explosion, saying it targeted Hezbollah. The group promised more attacks, Reuters reported.

But senior Hezbollah figures said the blast “has Zionist fingerprints all over it.”

Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel suggested that the attack may have been Israeli retaliation for explosions that wounded four Israeli soldiers who allegedly infiltrated southern Lebanon last week.

Danny Yatom, a former head of the Mossad intelligence agency, told Israel’s Army Radio that the bombing, in which more than 212 were injured, was an internal Lebanese matter of state and denied Israel’s involvement as it has “enough problems of [its] own.”

“We have become accustomed to this kind of accusations; they need to be ignored,” he said, adding, “There is almost no situation in the Middle East that Israel’s opponents do not attribute to Israel, and this is also true in this case.”

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