Lebanon News

Arsal calls on Army to respond to Syria air raids

A rocket from Syria damaged the house belonging to Farah al-Braidi in Arsal's Ata Valley, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. (The Daily Star/Stringer)

ARSAL, Lebanon: Local residents and prominent figures in Arsal held a meeting at the local headquarters of the Future Movement Friday, a day after the Syrian army helicopter fired rockets into the area.

The group called on President Michel Sleiman to order the Lebanese Army to respond to violations of its airspace by the Syrian military.

“What is the point of [the Army’s] presence in the area if it cannot even fire a single bullet against Assadist violations?” the group said in a statement.

Local residents warned against what they called “a Syrian regime plot” to involve their town in the conflict, saying they only sought to remain a haven for Syrian refugees.

Arsal has been accused by Syrian regime supporters of harboring rebels opposed to President Bashar Assad’s regime. The northern Bekaa area has experienced numerous security incidents as a result of the fighting in Syria, including rocket attacks from rebel-held areas against Shiite towns and villages in Lebanon.

Hezbollah cited these attacks to justify its participation in the regime’s battle to retake the town of Qusair, just across the border, this summer.

A Syrian regime gunship carried out two strikes Thursday in which it fired eight rockets on a number of residential buildings in Wadi Ata on the outskirts of the Baalbek town of Arsal. The rockets struck two homes in the area, but no injuries were reported.

A Syrian warplane carried out a raid on the same day in Khirbet Yunan, which has been targeted by regime gunfire in the past.

Former Internal Security Forces chief Ashraf Rifi condemned the Arsal strikes, and called for the Lebanese Army to deploy on the border. He accused the Lebanese state of “shirking its responsibility.”

The United States also condemned late Thursday the rocket attacks from Syria that targeted Arsal.

“The United States strongly condemns today’s [Thursday’s] rocket attacks on Lebanon and we do not have, while we don’t have any details, we’re seeking more information,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told a press briefing. “The government of Lebanon has also said that they will be conducting an investigation, so we will look to that.”

Lebanon officially adopts a policy of disassociating from developments in Syria and in 2012 rival political leaders agreed to the Baabda Declaration, a pact that calls for maintaining Lebanon’s neutrality in the face of regional crises, particularly the neighboring Syrian war.

“We of course call on all parties in the region to respect, as we always do, Lebanon’s sovereignty and its stated policy of disassociation,” Psaki said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 16, 2013, on page 2.

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