BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Conflicting reports emerge over Syrian incursions into Lebanon

Lebanese soldiers sit atop an armored vehicle as they patrol the area in Masharih al-Qaa. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

MASHARIH AL-QAA, Lebanon: Syrian troops fired machine guns into a Bekaa border town Tuesday during clashes between the Syrian army and rebel groups, but no direct Lebanese casualties were reported and Lebanese officials denied a news report of a Syrian military incursion in the area.

Security sources, speaking to The Daily Star on condition of anonymity, said fierce clashes erupted near the border town of Joura between the Syrian Army and the Free Syrian Army around 6 a.m. and lasted for three hours.

Joura has been used as a passage by Syrians fleeing violence into Lebanon.

A number of Lebanese residents in the area said three Syrian Army checkpoints were attacked by the FSA, leaving several Syrian soldiers wounded.

One of the residents who fled the scene of the clashes said that members of the Syrian army commandeered a van that he owned and transported seven of their wounded soldiers out of the area. A resident of Joura told The Daily Star that Syrian troops destroyed Abdel-Amin Ammoun’s house on the outskirts of the village, 50 meters away from the border, with tank fire.

In addition, roughly 10 mortar rounds are believed to have fallen on Lebanese soil and machine-gun fire was heard well into the afternoon.

In the evening, Manar Television said the Lebanese Army had intercepted two truckloads of weapons in the Bekaa, which were headed to Syria, and had arrested four Lebanese and six Syrians. The army had no official comment on the matter.

During the morning fighting, no direct casualties were reported, but Zahra Mohammad Hamid, a 50-year-old Lebanese woman, was transported by the Lebanese Red Cross to Chtaura Hospital due to breathing problems she suffered when a mortar round landed next to her house. Dozens of Lebanese families who live in the region fled to safer areas.

Following their weekly meeting, Future Bloc MPs condemned the Syrian army’s attack against the Lebanese area of Masharih al-Qaa in the Bekaa Valley and the mortars it launched toward homes.

The bloc also called on the government to carry out its duty through its Army to protect national sovereignty and people’s lives and prevent any attack against them.Meanwhile, a high-ranking Lebanese security source denied Reuters reports that said Syrian troops had advanced into Masharih al-Qaa.

Head of Al-Qaa municipality, Milad Rizq, also denied Syrian troops had crossed into Lebanese territory, but said sporadic gunfire could be heard. “There has not been an incursion into Lebanon, but we can clearly hear clashes inside Syria,” Rizq, whose office is less than a kilometer away from the border, told The Daily Star.

Security sources said Lebanese troops, deployed within a 5-kilometer strip along Masharih al-Qaa, have beefed up their presence in Joura.

This was not the first time the Syrian army has been accused of firing into Joura. Syrian troops last week fired seven mortar rounds into the village. – With additional reporting by Dana Khraiche

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 28, 2012, on page 1.

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