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Syrian Violence Spreads to Lebanon | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A Free Syrian Army fighter gestures as he checks Syrian Army positions during clashes in the Haresta neighbourhood of Damascus February 1, 2013. (Reuters)


A Free Syrian Army fighter gestures as he checks Syrian Army positions during clashes in the Haresta neighbourhood of Damascus February 1, 2013. (Reuters)

A Free Syrian Army fighter gestures as he checks Syrian Army positions during clashes in the Haresta neighbourhood of Damascus February 1, 2013. (Reuters)


London, Asharq Al-Awsat-Four Lebanese soldiers, along with two gunmen were killed in a shootout near a Syrian border town on Friday.

The Lebanese army issued a statement asserting that, “An army patrol was ambushed in the village of Arsal as it hunted a man wanted for several terrorist acts.” The wanted man, Khaled Hummayed, was believed to be a member of the jihadist Nusra Front that has lately been declared a terrorist organization by the United States. He was also killed in the shootout.

For its part, Lebanon’s national news agency said that Hummayed was wanted for involvement in the kidnapping of Estonian tourists in the Bekaa Valley in 2011.

The Estonian nationals were abducted in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley and held for nearly four months before being released in July.

There were conflicting reports regarding the nature of this clash, which saw Lebanese security forces ambushed as they pursued a wanted man. Some reports, citing unnamed security sources, claimed that the Lebanese soldiers had been attacked by Syrian rebels, while others reports indicated that it was the Lebanese villagers themselves who attacked the plain-clothed security personnel in retaliation following Hummayed’s death.

One Arsal resident, speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, claimed that the wanted man had no ties to the Nusra Front or any other armed group. He claimed that Hummayed was a washing-machine repair man and father of seven who helped the Syrian rebels in a peaceful way.

He said, “He is also an activist who helps the Syrian revolution.” Arsal is located in the eastern Bekaa Valley, and is known as a stronghold of support for the Syrian revolution. The village has been described as a “hub” for refugees fleeing the violence in the country while Free Syrian Army (FSA) soldiers are also believed to have a strong presence in this border area.

The Lebanese army reported that a captain was among those killed, adding that several others had been wounded in the clash with an unspecified number of gunmen, who also sustained casualties.

The Lebanese army added, “There will be no compromise on attempts to hide armed militants.” The Syrian civil war has divided neighboring Lebanon, with some Sunni Muslim groups calling for supporting the popular uprising against the Assad regime. Other factions are of the view that Lebanon must not get involved in the crisis, while Hezbollah, known to be a strong ally of Assad, has strongly supported the Damascus ruling regime, reportedly even sending fighters to Syria. In October 2012, Ali Hussein Nassif was killed in an FSA raid on the city of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border. It was quickly revealed that Qusayr was the commander of all Hezbollah forces in Syria.

Friday’s violence represents a worrying trend with regards to the violence in Syria spilling over into neighboring countries. This is becoming even more dangerous in light of the unabated flow of refugees from Syria.

There are already more than 200,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, a country with a population of just four million.

The Syrian army has previously fired mortars into Lebanon, and even crossed the border to fight the rebels on Lebanese territory. Syrian troops are also reported to have shot civilian refugees fleeing the violence. In addition to this, Syrian rebel fighters clashed last year with the Lebanese army, which has strong historic ties to Damascus.

A Free Syrian Army fighter walks in a building destroyed during clashes in the Haresta neighbourhood of Damascus February 1, 2013. (Reuters)

A Free Syrian Army fighter walks in a building destroyed during clashes in the Haresta neighbourhood of Damascus February 1, 2013. (Reuters)

Vehicles of the Lebanese army drive near the village of Arsal, near the border with Syria, where a clash between gunmen and the army happened killing two soldiers on February 1, 2013. (AFP)

Vehicles of the Lebanese army drive near the village of Arsal, near the border with Syria, where a clash between gunmen and the army happened killing two soldiers on February 1, 2013. (AFP)