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Syria Fighting Spills Into Northern Lebanon

  • Edward Yeranian

A picture taken with a smart phone shows smoke rising in the village of al-Hosn in the Homs region, about 200 kilometers northwest of Damascus, Syria, March 20, 2014.

A picture taken with a smart phone shows smoke rising in the village of al-Hosn in the Homs region, about 200 kilometers northwest of Damascus, Syria, March 20, 2014.

Syrian warplanes bombed areas along Lebanon's northern border Thursday amid bitter fighting between rebels and government forces in a historic border town. Scores of civilians and fighters were reported to be fleeing into Lebanon.

Ambulances ferried victims of the fighting to hospitals in northern Lebanon. Rebel fighters and civilians forded a border river to enter Lebanon after the regular crossing was closed.

Syrian state TV reported that government forces had captured the besieged old Crusader fortress town of Qala'at al-Hosn by mid-afternoon, but the report could not be confirmed. Syrian fighter jets reportedly strafed areas near the border, causing a number of casualties.

A young man who lives on the Lebanese side complained that the Syrian conflict had spilled onto Lebanese soil.

He said women and children were bombed and that parts of his village were hit by rockets, damaging houses and wounding villagers. He claims Syrians were stranded in a no-man's land along the border because the Lebanese Army wasn't letting them enter.

Al-Arabiya TV reported that 800 to 1,000 Syrians were stranded along the border and trying to enter Lebanon amid Syrian government shelling. The station added that dozens of Syrians were wounded and in need of treatment.

In Beirut, a Sunni member of parliament from northern Lebanon traded angry words with the assembly's Shi'ite Muslim speaker Thursday, claiming that Lebanese army forces were preventing Syrians in need from entering the country.

Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah militia has been helping Syrian government forces to capture pockets of rebel-held territory along the Lebanese border. A strategic highway linking the capital, Damascus, with northern coastal Syria runs close to that border.

Syrian troops and their militia allies last week captured the mountain town of Yabroud, farther south along the border. Dozens of rebels have been killed in the recent battles.

Rebel fighters from the Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusrat claimed to retake a Syrian Army position outside Yabroud Wednesday. Amateur video shows the fighters near an arms depot and a government tank. It was impossible to independently verify the claim.

Rebel fighters also claimed to have captured a government-held village near Syria's fourth largest city of Hama Thursday. Two days earlier, rebels reported capturing a government prison complex in the southern city of Dara'a.

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