BEIRUT/TRIPOLI: Wounded rebels fleeing fierce battles over the border in Syria were brought to Lebanese hospitals Thursday, as Syrian regime forces captured the nearby historic citadel of Krak des Chevaliers.
Conflicting reports emerged regarding the number of opposition fighters killed in the fighting, with numbers ranging from 11 to 40.
At least 45 of the wounded who reached Wadi Khaled were transported by Lebanese Red Cross ambulances to hospitals in the northern region of Akkar, security sources told The Daily Star.
Syrian regime forces chased the fleeing militants across Rajm Hussein, a small hamlet on the outskirts of Wadi Khaled, engaging them in fierce fighting, the sources said. They also closed the Bqaiaa border crossing with Lebanon in both directions in an apparent effort to tighten the noose on the rebels and block the entry of wounded into Lebanon.
Only 28 wounded remain hospitalized by early afternoon, the sources told The Daily Star, adding that despite media reports, none of the wounded had died. The sources said that many of the fleeing fighters were from the Nusra Front, a Sunni jihadist group.
The Syrian army entered Al-Hosn Monday and won control of the famed crusader fortress Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the sound of artillery bombardment and heavy machine gun fire reverberated across the border as Syrian warplanes were seen circling the northern frontier.
The sources said several Syrian rockets hit towns bordering Wadi Khaled during the dawn ambush.
The National News Agency said several homes were hit by Syrian shelling, but there were no reports of casualties among civilians.
Angry residents briefly blocked the road to the Abboudiyeh border crossing and to Halba, Akkar, in protest against the Syrian shelling of Wadi Khaled.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk pleaded with protestors not to seal off the roads in order to facilitate the entry of “Lebanese and Syrians wounded by Syrian shelling” to hospitals.