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

Security sources, speaking to The Daily Star on condition of anonymity, said fierce clashes erupted near the border town of Joura between members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Syrian Army at 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 Army 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 comrades 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 with tank fire.

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

No direct casualties were reported, but Zahra Mohammad Hamid, a 50-year-old Lebanese woman, was transported to Chtaura Hospital due to breathing problems she suffered when a mortar round landed next to her house.

Tens of Lebanese families that live in the area fled to safer places.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking Lebanese security source denied a news report by Reuters that said Syrian troops had advanced into Masharih al-Qaa.

Head of nearby 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 Syrian border, told The Daily Star by telephone.

Security sources said Lebanese troops, deployed within a five-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, but they all fell in uninhabited areas. Several homes were also struck by Syrian gunfire, but no one was hurt. - With additional reporting by Dana Khraiche

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