ARSAL, Lebanon: Clashes erupted in northeast Lebanon over the weekend as the fallout from the Syrian war continued to batter the region, with Syrian gunmen fighting residents of Arsal as well as Hezbollah.
Three Lebanese men were lightly wounded and two others likely kidnapped in clashes Sunday between residents of the east Lebanon border village of Arsal and armed Syrian rebels, a security source told The Daily Star.
The clashes – the first of their kind – took place in the mountainous region of Rahwa, which separates Arsal from Syrian territories, the source said, adding that Arsal officials contacted Syrian opposition groups in the area to secure the release of the two kidnapped men.
The reasons behind the clashes were not immediately clear. One wounded man was identified as Ahmad al-Atrash by the state-run National News Agency. The other two are from the Hujeiri and Jabbawi families.
The Bekaa Valley town of Arsal in the Baalbek region is known for its strong support for Syrian rebels and houses many families of Syrian rebels.
The fighting came a day after Syrian militants clashed with Hezbollah fighters on the border with Lebanon, according to a security source.
The clashes erupted on the outskirts of Brital, east Lebanon, in the Ain al-Bnayyeh village along the porous border.
Hezbollah and Syrian fighters have clashed in the area on several occasions, the source told The Daily Star, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The National News Agency said the fighters were trying to sneak into Lebanon, but added that the clashes were between Syrian gunmen and “armed groups.”
The shadowy group Liwaa Ahrar al-Sunna said on its Twitter feed that members of the radical group engaged in clashes with Hezbollah in the area.
The group has also claimed it has “captured” three Hezbollah members near Baalbek, and has claimed an ambush against Army soldiers as well as several rockets on Shiite areas associated with Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, the Internal Security Forces announced the seizure of 59 boxes of medicine smuggled from Syria into Arsal.
The ISF said the boxes were confiscated during a noon raid on an apartment in the town that is occupied by Syrian refugees.
A 40-year-old Syrian man identified only by his initials was arrested on suspicion of smuggling the medical supplies.
The ISF said the case has been referred to its money laundering and financial crimes bureau.
The incidents came despite the launch last month of a security plan by the Lebanese Army to restore law and order in the Bekaa Valley.
Several residents of of Baalbek, east Lebanon, blocked a vital road in the area Saturday in protest of the Army’s security measures in the region, including recent arrests.
Using burning tires, residents of the Sharawneh neighborhood, where the Army conducted raids a day earlier, blocked the road leading to downtown Baalbek, crippling traffic.