TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Heavy shelling and gunfire from the Syrian side of the border with Lebanon over the weekend claimed the lives of four Lebanese in Wadi Khaled, raising tensions in the northern region.
In response to the weekend deaths, President Michel Sleiman urged Syria to halt the shooting and firing of shells into Lebanon from across the border.
The shelling, described by residents of Wadi Khaled as unprecedented, targeted Heesha and villages in the northern region, where sporadic incidents linked to the crisis in Syria have occurred in the past.
Ahmad Shihab, a member of Heesha Municipality, was killed in the overnight shelling. His brother, Hani, also died from shrapnel wounds.
Residents said earlier Saturday Hussein Ismail was also killed when a hail of bullets ripped through his vehicle while he was returning home with his brother. Heavy shelling on several border villages soon ensued, they added.
According to the National News Agency, Ismail, 40, was the nephew of former MP Jamal Ismail and served as his uncle’s personal driver.
Residents of Wadi Khaled, who argued that the attacks from the Syrian side had been selective, said the weekend violence was unjustified as there had been no gunmen or reason to provoke a response.
Mashta Hammoud Mayor Naji Ramadaan told The Daily Star that a house in his village was hit by an artillery shell but that there had been no casualties, only material damage.
The Lebanese Army said Saturday night in a statement that a man it identified as Hussein Ezzo was shot in the head in Bqaiya, which borders Syria. He was transported to a hospital but later died from his injuries, the military said, adding that troops were deployed to the area after the incident.
MP Mouin Merhebi said Sunday Ezzo had been killed by sniper fire from Syria and appealed to the president to intervene.
"We condemn what the mobs of [Syrian President Bashar] Assad have done by killing Akkar resident Hussein al-Ezzo in Wadi Khaled by sniper fire while he was in his village," Merehbi said in a statement.
“I urge the president, who is the commander in chief, to fulfill the oath he took to protect his country by ordering the deployment of Lebanese soldiers along the border and asking the United Nations to implement Security Council Resolution 1701 under Chapter Severn to protect our land,” he added.
Future Movement lawmakers and some March 14 MPs have called for the deployment of international troops along the Lebanese-Syrian border to better monitor the poorly demarcated border as well as prevent border clashes and shelling from occurring.
Sleiman Sunday called for an end to the shooting and firing of shells from Syria.
"[Sleiman] stressed the need to remain committed to the neutral stance [of Lebanon] and not to interfere in other countries' affairs, particularly Syria, and he urged the Syrian side to refrain from shooting or firing missiles in the direction of Lebanese territory,” his office said in a statement.
Lebanon has adopted a policy of dissociating itself from developments in the region, particularly in Syria.