File - A general view shows the lebanese village of al-Qaa, front, facing the Syrian villages of Joussi and Nazaria, background, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)
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In the early evening hours of Jan. 6, Milad Rizk, the mayor of the sleepy border town of Al-Qaa, was in a meeting when he felt his mobile phone vibrate; the number was Syrian and unfamiliar.In addition to the civilian patrols, the town is protected by municipal police, paid by the Interior Ministry and the Army.Rizk's rivals in the town believe the threats are specious, and part of a plan concocted by the mayor to divert attention away from what they say are illegal building activities in Masharih al-Qaa, an issue that has divided the town for some time.Deconstructing the puzzle of allegations and retorts over the issue of the ISIS threats in Al-Qaa inevitably brings one back to the land issue in Masharih al-Qaa, a matter in which virtually everyone in the town has a stake.About 10 kilometers separates the residential area of Al-Qaa from embattled regions in Syria.Masharih al-Qaa is a vast agricultural tract separating the border town from the Syrian frontier, and has been hit by several rockets presumably intended for nearby Hermel.
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