The attack in Beirut is believed to have been carried out by supporters of Syria’s Sunni Muslim-dominated rebel movement, which also has supporters in religiously mixed Lebanon. They are angry at the increasing role that Hizbollah’s Shia Muslim fighters are playing in the war in Syria, where they are currently helping Mr Assad’s forces to recapture the strategic city of Qusair near Lebanon’s border.

The Grad rocket attacks – the first attempt to target Hizbollah’s strongholds in southern Beirut – hit a car sales yard in the Al-Shayyah district and a nearby apartment block.

While only five people were wounded, the strikes evoked uneasy memories of Lebanon’s own sectarian civil war in the 1980s, in which the city divided into warring neighbourhoods.

“The explosions happened near my home. I don’t know who is behind it, but I feel like the war is near,” said one resident, who was too frightened to give his name. “People are scared and the streets are empty.”