Arsal’s relations with neighboring villages have deteriorated sharply since the start of the Syrian crisis. (The Daily Star/Nidal Solh)
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Bordering the town is a 40 km stretch of land that has largely gone unpoliced since Syrian troops abandoned the frontier area after the start of the civil war in 2011 .This perception has been fueled by the fact that since the start of the civil war in Syria over three years ago, Syrian rebels have often taken refuge in the town in between stints fighting in the cross-border Qalamoun region against the Syrian regime and Hezbollah.Arsal's outskirts have also been regularly attacked by Syrian regime warplanes, resulting in casualties.In February 2013, a botched Army operation to arrest Khaled Ahmad Hmayed – who was suspected of having links to the Syrian opposition and groups sympathetic with Al-Qaeda – led to deadly clashes that killed two Army soldiers, Pierre Bachaalany and Ibrahim Zahraman, in addition to Hmayed.In late April, an Army checkpoint near the town was ambushed, resulting in five soldiers' being wounded.
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