(AP) DAMASCUS, Syria – A Hamas activist survived a bombing Monday that destroyed his vehicle on a Damascus street shortly after he and his family stepped out, the Palestinian militant group said.
Hamas and the Syrian government blamed Israeli intelligence agents for the 3:45 p.m. blast that slightly injured three passers-by and shattered windows of several nearby apartments.
A bomb placed under the seat of the vehicle exploded minutes after the Palestinian, his wife and daughter stepped out, said Interior Minister Ghazi Kenaan.
“The party behind this collaborates with the Israeli Mossad, or is the Mossad itself,” he said on Syrian television, referring to Israeli intelligence agency. His comments were carried by Syria’s official SANA news agency.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hamas’ deputy political bureau leader, said the vehicle belonged to a Palestinian member of Hamas. He would not give his name or position in the movement.
Asked whether Israel was behind the attack, Abu Marzouk replied: “You can say that.”
A senior Israeli official said he knew nothing of the incident.
Monday’s explosion came a day after Palestinian militants detonated 1 1/2 tons of explosives on an Israeli army outpost on the Gaza-Egypt border, killing five soldiers and wounding five. Hamas said it had dug an 800-yard-long tunnel over four months to reach the outpost. Hamas and gunmen with ties to the ruling Fatah (news – web sites) movement claimed responsibility for the attack.
Hamas, whose top political leaders have their headquarters in Damascus, has carried out numerous suicide bombings and killed hundreds of Israelis. In addition to Hamas, other militant and radical Palestinian guerrilla groups have set up headquarters in Damascus. Syria is also home to 450,000 Palestinian refugees.
The blast Monday blew wooden doors off their frames and shattered windows in a nearby house.
“It sounded and felt like an earthquake,” said Deeb Mahfouz, 57, who lives in a first-floor apartment near where the vehicle was parked. “There were screams on the street. We thought that an old house across the street collapsed. Then I saw smoke shooting up from the car.”
Resident Urwa Shatti, 14, said he heard the explosion and ran to look. “I saw a man being hauled into a taxi cab with injuries,” he said.
The explosion was the third in the Syrian capital this year and the second in the Mazzah neighborhood. Police towed the vehicle away in less than an hour and municipal workers cleared the street of debris.
On April 27, assailants detonated a bomb under a car and then opened fire on security forces. Two gunmen, a policeman and a civilian passer-by were killed in the 90-minute gunbattle.
The Syrian government initially called the clash a terrorist attack — a rarity in this tightly controlled country. But officials later said the attack was a homegrown, isolated incident, backing away from suggestions that international terrorists were responsible.
Israeli security officials did claim responsibility for a Sept. 26 car bombing in Damascus that killed Hamas leader Izz Eldine Subhi Sheik Khalil and wounded three bystanders. That attack came more than three weeks after twin suicide bombings in southern Israel that killed 16 Israelis.