BEIRUT - Twin blasts have rocked the southern Beirut suburb of Burj al-Barajneh on Thursday. At least 43 people have died according to the Health Ministry although the figures could be even higher.
More than 200 others have been injured in the blasts, which hit a predominantly Shia neighbourhood seen as a Hezbollah stronghold. The Islamic State (IS) group has now claimed responsibility for the attacks, which are the biggest to hit the capital since the end of the civil war 25 years ago.
Witnesses said that there were only minutes between the two blasts, while Lebanon's official agency said that the blast sites were approximately 150 metres apart.
As the news broke, large crowds congregated, fearful for the fate of loved ones and friends, with the wounded being carried away on stretchers covered with white blankets. The mood was sombre with crowds singing religious songs while banners of fallen Hezbollah fighters, killed fighting in Syria, flew just meters away from the site of the explosion.
Hezbollah operatives, discernible by distinct yellow bands worn around their biceps, and Lebanese Armed Forces personnel were present on the scene and were attempting to restore calm late into the night. Several politicians and prominent Hezbollah members came to pay their respects.
Mohamad, a 22-year-old reporter for local a television station, was close to the blast site when the explosions went off.
"It was 5:50pm (1550GMT) and I was walking to the university when the explosion happened,” he told Middle East Eye. “Then, five minutes later, we heard the second blast. There were lots of people on the streets coming back from work and shopping before dinner."
"We are ready for anything that can happen, and we knew [an attack] would happen sooner or later,” he added.
Ahmad, a 26-year-old resident did not want to give his real name but told MEE that his friend had been killed. He blamed the bombing on a Syrian national who “was a worker in a nearby bakery” and seemed to be “a normal person”.
"I don't know what drove them (to commit the attack). I think they were brainwashed," said Ahmad, who proudly showed off an image of himself wearing military fatigues and said that the phone picture was taken while he worked "in logistics" for Hezbollah.
"Here, in the neighbourhood, we all support Hezbollah and its policies, also in Syria. We knew an attack would happen, and it does not change anything,” he said.
A national day of mourning has now been announced for Friday, with widespread condemnation ringing out from the political establishment and Prime Minister Tammam Salam saying: "We denounce this criminal act which can't be justified."