BAALBEK, Lebanon: Over 200 Lebanese and Syrian nationals kidnapped from a Syrian border town early this week by rebels were released Tuesday, according to a Lebanese security source.
The Syrian and Lebanese were snatched Monday from the mainly Christian village of Rableh along the poorly demarcated border with Lebanon, the source said.
Rableh is one of several villages with a mixed population of Lebanese and Syrians.
The town had kept itself out of the conflict between the government of President Bashar Assad and Syrian rebels. In recent month however, the Syrian government began arming some in the town.
As a lesson to remain neutral in the conflict, the Free Syrian Army kidnapped 218 Lebanese and Syrian citizens and then released them the next day, according to the source.
Syria has repeatedly claimed that members of the rebel group have infiltrated the border with Lebanon and urged Lebanese authorities to better control the smuggling of gunmen and arms into the troubled country.
In July, the Lebanese Army, following a Cabinet decision, deployed heavily along the border with Syria as intensified measures to prevent smuggling. The government’s decision came after Syrian shelling killed two Lebanese citizens in the northern Wadi Khaled border region and in light of repeated Syrian incursions into Lebanese territories.
Tensions have been running high on the 550-kilometer-long Syria-Lebanon border since the uprising began in mid-March of last year.
Members of the Free Syrian Army attacked a Lebanese Army post on Sept. 22 near the northern border with Syria. Following the incident, Army reinforcements were dispatched to the area, while soldiers began pursuing the assailants who escaped toward the mountains as well as some border towns.