HERMEL, Lebanon: The Syrian army Sunday conducted at least 20 air raids targeting the outskirts of the Lebanese border town of Arsal as Lebanon’s army moved to halt infiltration by rebels fleeing the town of Yabroud across the border, security sources said.
Hundreds of Syrian opposition fighters were spotted on the outskirts of Arsal Sunday morning after Syrian regime forces reportedly overtook the rebel-held town of Yabroud.
Syrian air strikes in the area throughout the day killed at least two rebels, the sources said, adding that 11 fighters also wounded in the bombardment were transferred to a field hospital in Arsal.
The Lebanese Army, in a bid to halt rebel infiltration into Arsal, closed most of the border crossings into the town which is known for supporting the Syrian opposition.
Using sandbags, Lebanese soldiers also blocked the town’s western entrance, the sources said.
"No one can leave, all the roads are closed," Dr. Bassem al-Faris, a Syrian doctor working in Arsal, told The Daily Star over the telephone.
"Something bad is expected in Arsal," he said.
The sources said the move to block close Arsal’s western entrance was aimed at preventing any rebel access to nearby towns such as Labweh, a mainly Shiite village that backs Hezbollah.
LBCI television quoted Labweh’s mayor, Ramez Amhaz, as saying the sandbags and security measures were “a natural reaction” to the presence of gunmen on the outskirts of Arsal.
“The state is our sole guarantor and it is the only authority capable of arresting gunmen,” Amhaz said.
He added that the town’s residents were cooperating with security forces to “defend” the town from any possible action against it.
The measures on both sides of the border came as Syrian state television reported Syrian regime troops had seized full control of the rebel bastion of Yabroud in Damascus province.
Yabroud was seen as the last rebel-held town along the border with Lebanon.
“There is a lot of sadness here because Yabroud has fallen,” Faris said. – With additional reporting by Elise Knutsen