Lebanon News

In rare move, Army fires on Syrian aircraft after airspace breach

File photo of Lebanese soldiers searching civilians at a checkpoint at the entrance of Arsal. AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

HERMEL, Lebanon: The Lebanese Army, in a rare responsive measure to a violation of Lebanese airspace, fired Monday on a Syrian aircraft over the northeast border town of Arsal.

A military source told The Daily Star that troops were responding to orders from the Lebanese Army Command “to fire on any warplane that violates Lebanese airspace.”

A military source said soldiers fired anti-aircraft batteries on the Syrian warplane after it flew over a Lebanese Army center in the Wadi Hmayyed area of Arsal. The center is used for the distribution of aid to Syrian refugees.

Minutes later, two Syrian air gunships fired four air-to-ground rockets at Khirbit Daoud on the fringes of Arsal, the source added.

There were no reports of casualties from the airstrike that took place around noon.

Deputy Mayor Ahmad Fliti told The Daily Star that the Syrian warplanes were observed overnight and Monday morning above Arsal and Ras Baalbek.

He said, however, that the anti-aircraft guns were not heard in the village.

“None of the residents informed the municipal council of hearing or seeing the Army respond to the Syrian warplanes,” he said, denying that the Army ever responded to the violations.

The plane promptly vacated the area afterward, the source said.

A security source told The Daily Star that the Army response to the overflight was a rare development in military and security incidents that the Lebanese-Syrian border has witnessed on the Arsal front, Ras Baalbak and Qaa, particularly the illegal crossings that take place along the porous border between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia has granted the Army $3 billion in military equipment to be bought from France, President Michel Sleiman announced Sunday.

“The Saudi grant will allow France to equip the Army with newer and more modern weapons,” he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 31, 2013, on page 1.




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