Lebanon News

North shelled despite Syrian regime assurances

The Syrian-Lebanese border checkpoint is seen in the eastern village of Masharih al-Qaa, Lebanon, Friday, Oct. 21, 2011. (The Daily Star/Nidal Solh)

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Intense shelling of north Lebanon border villages continued over the weekend even after President Michel Sleiman received assurances from Syrian officials that those responsible would be held accountable.

The shelling, which came in two stages – one between 9 and 11 p.m. Saturday, the other between 2 and 5 a.m. Sunday – targeted the border villages of Debabiyeh and Nura, which are adjacent to the Nahr al-Kabir river in Akkar, north Lebanon. There were no reported wounded.

Sleiman held a series of calls Saturday concerning recent attacks originating from Syria onto Lebanese border villages. According to a statement from his office Saturday, Sleiman was also briefed by Lebanese Army Gen. Jean Kahwagi on the circumstances surrounding Syrian shelling Friday that wounded one Lebanese soldier.

“[Sleiman] was briefed by Kahwagi on the circumstances surrounding the firing of missiles which resulted in the wounding of one Lebanese soldier and damage to several houses,” the statement said.

“[He was also briefed on] the entry and kidnapping of a citizen in Masharih al-Qaa,” it added.

Security sources told The Daily Star that a Syrian army unit crossed into Lebanon Saturday and kidnapped a farmer from the eastern border area of Masharih al-Qaa.

In the statement Saturday, Kahwagi also briefed Sleiman on consultations with “Syrian officials on this issue in which they pledged to bring to account those behind the shelling and apologized for the wrong that had been committed without the knowledge of the relevant leadership and vowed not allow it to recur.”

Since the uprising began in Syria against President Bashar Assad’s rule, the Syrian army has on several occasions crossed into Lebanon and raided houses near the poorly demarcated border, which is estimated to be around 550 kilometers long.

Lebanese border towns have also witnessed shelling from the Syrian side, damaging houses and at times killing residents.

Syria has claimed that it is the victim of violence and crime emanating from Lebanon, and has repeatedly asked Lebanon to better control the border, citing arms smuggling and gunmen entering its land via Lebanon.

Earlier this year, Sleiman asked Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour to deliver a letter of protest to Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdel-Karim Ali over Syria’s repeated violations of the Lebanese border.

Sleiman also “expressed his displeasure” in July over border violations in which several villages along the northern border were struck by shells fired from Syria, including a direct hit on a house.

Meanwhile, the head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council Sheikh Nabil Qaouq accused some Lebanese security apparatuses of providing assistance to the flow of fighters into Syria. “There are official security agencies helping armed groups access Syrian territories to target Syria ,” Qaouq said during a rally in south Lebanon.

Qaouq spoke about military bases in Lebanon from which attacks are being launched against Syrian army locations inside Syrian territories.

“These attacks are facilitated by the March 14 coalition and the security agencies affiliated with the March 14 alliance,” Qaouq said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 03, 2012, on page 3.




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