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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs