Gunmen kill 3 Lebanese soldiers, escape to Syria

Attack on Lebanese Army checkpoint comes as Lebanon is increasingly pulled into Syrian civil war.

By REUTERS
May 28, 2013 08:04
2 minute read.
Lebanese soldiers (file)

Lebanese soldiers 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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BEIRUT - Gunmen opened fire on a military checkpoint in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley on Tuesday, killing three soldiers before escaping across the border into Syria, a Lebanese military source said.

The source said two of the soldiers died in the attack, near the town of Arsal, and a third died later in hospital.

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The border areas around Arsal are used by Syrian rebels battling President Bashar Assad to smuggle weapons and fighters from Lebanon across into Syria, and the region has seen previous clashes between the Lebanese military and gunmen.

In February, four Lebanese soldiers and two gunmen were killed in a gunfight near Arsal.

The incident came as Lebanon has been increasingly pulled into Syria's civil war with Hezbollah fighters backing  Assad's fight against rebels.

Two rockets hit a Shi'ite Muslim district of southern Beirut on Sunday and wounded several people, residents said, a day after the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said his group would continue fighting in Syria until victory.

It was the first attack to apparently target Hezbollah's stronghold in the south of the Lebanese capital since the outbreak of the two-year conflict in neighboring Syria, which has sharply heightened Lebanon's own sectarian tensions.



One rocket landed in a car sales yard next to a busy road junction in the Chiah neighborhood and the other hit an apartment several hundred meters away, wounding five people, residents said.

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There was no immediate claim of responsibility and the army said it was investigating who was behind the attack.

Until recently, Nasrallah insisted that Hezbollah had not sent guerrillas to fight alongside Assad's forces, but in his speech on Saturday he said it had been fighting in Syria for several months to defend Lebanon from radical Islamist groups he said were now driving Syria's rebellion.

Hezbollah forces and Assad's troops launched a fierce assault last week aimed at driving Syrian rebels out of Qusair, a strategic town close to the Lebanese border which rebels have used as a supply route for weapons coming into the country.

Lebanese authorities, haunted by Lebanon's own 1975-1990 civil war and torn by the same sectarian rifts as its powerful neighbor, have sought to pursue a police of "dissociation" from the Syrian turmoil.

But they are unable to prevent the flow into Syria of Sunni Muslim gunmen who support the rebels and Hezbollah fighters who support Assad, and have struggled to absorb nearly half a million refugees coming the other way to escape the fighting.

At least 25 people have been killed in Tripoli in the north of Lebanon over the last week in street fighting which has coincided with the battle for Qusair across the border.

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