News / Middle East

Lebanon Battles Syrian Rebels in Border Town

Lebanese army soldiers point towards the direction of the mountain where clashes is taking place with Islamist militants, near the entrance leading to Arsal, near the Syrian border in Lebanon, August 3, 2014.
Lebanese army soldiers point towards the direction of the mountain where clashes is taking place with Islamist militants, near the entrance leading to Arsal, near the Syrian border in Lebanon, August 3, 2014.
VOA News

Lebanese soldiers traded fire with Islamist gunmen and shelled areas around the border town of Arsal on Sunday in a push to dislodge the biggest incursion by militants into Lebanon since Syria's civil war began.

The fighting erupted Saturday at the border town of Arsal after the rebels were angered by the Lebanese detention of a Syrian, Imad Ahmad Jomaa, who is believed to be a member of al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate, Al-Nusra Front. It is one of the most powerful groups fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

At least 10 Lebanese soldiers have been killed in the fighting. And, Lebanese officials said Sunday they believe the Syrian rebels have captured at least 12 members of Lebanese security forces.

Attack called premeditated

Army Chief General Jean Kahwaji said the attack was premeditated.

"What happened is far more dangerous than some believe," Kahwaji told reporters in Beirut, saying the arrested commander had admitted to planning a large attack against army positions. "The terrorist attack which occurred yesterday was not an attack by chance or coincidence. It was planned previously, a long time ago, awaiting the appropriate time," he said.

Gunmen drive away with about a dozen men, two in camouflage police uniforms, in Arsal, a Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Aug 2, 2014.Gunmen drive away with about a dozen men, two in camouflage police uniforms, in Arsal, a Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Aug 2, 2014.
x
Gunmen drive away with about a dozen men, two in camouflage police uniforms, in Arsal, a Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Aug 2, 2014.
Gunmen drive away with about a dozen men, two in camouflage police uniforms, in Arsal, a Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Aug 2, 2014.

A security source said that a civilian had been killed by sniper fire inside Arsal, raising the civilian death toll in the fighting to three.

The Lebanese army warned of the seriousness of fighting and vowed to keep the Syrian conflict from spreading into its much-smaller country.

Arsal has long been a tinderbox for Lebanon's tensions. Rebels operating across the border in Syria's mountainous Qalamoun region have frequently crossed the porous border, often resting or seeking medical treatment in town.

Lebanon is hosting more than 1 million refugees who have fled Syria's conflict. More than 100,000 of them are estimated to be living in and around Arsal in makeshift camps spread throughout the surrounding hills.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) told the French news agency AFP it was "monitoring closely" the situation in Arsal but had no details on whether refugees had been affected by the fighting.

US reaction

The U.S. State Department strongly condemned the rebels' attack, calling on all the warring sides to respect Beirut's policy of "dissociation" from the fighting in Syria.

The US ambassador to Lebanon also met Kahwaji on Sunday to express support, the American embassy in Beirut said.

Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam called the raid an attack against Lebanon and its people. He called the assault a "flagrant attack on the Lebanese state and the Lebanese armed forces."

Salam said his government will not tolerate chaos and let matters get out of control. He called on "all political forces to exercise wisdom and responsibility and to make every effort to protect Lebanon and distance it from the dangers around it."

Salam said the army is working to restore security and stability in the Arsal region.

Lebanese military vehicles have deployed around Arsal and shelled the area while Syrian warplanes have been bombing rebel positions in the town's environs, residents say.

"The situation is bad," Arsal's mayor Ali al-Hujeiri said when reached by Reuters briefly by phone. "Very, very bad."

Cross-border violence

Violence stemming from the fighting in Syria often spills over into Lebanon.

Lebanese-based Hezbollah extremists have fought alongside Syrian government forces against the rebels trying to topple the Assad regime.

Lebanon, a Mediterranean country of about 4 million people that borders Israel, has struggled with the shockwaves of Syria's three-year-old conflict, whose sectarian dimensions echo those of its own 1975-90 civil war.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AFP.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: meanbill from: USA
August 03, 2014 6:32 PM
The Lebanese have fought in more wars than any country in the world, amongst themselves and against many other countries and empires, with internal religious, political and tribal differences at the forefront, and external political, religious, and tribal conflicts from neighboring countries spilling over into Lebanon..... (No one can question the bravery of the Lebanese, who's ancestors were all from great fighters)..

by: maithe from: Paris, France
August 03, 2014 2:51 PM
Lebanon: here we are !... Very very (predictable) bad news....
The so-called "rebels" are wild , fanatic terrorists groups. Among them the Al-Nusra front...
Everybody focus on Palestinians; Nobody seems to care about what is unfolding in Lebanon . Gaza in paving the way....
The worst is to come... with the Hezbollah.....

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs