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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees 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.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More