Syrian rebels intensify rocket attacks into Lebanon
Rebels fighting the Syrian government are shelling villages on the Lebanese side of the border in order to curb a Lebanese group's efforts to help the Syrian regime.
(Page 2 of 3)
"The Coalition calls on the Lebanese government ... to take all the necessary measures to put a stop to the actions of Hezbollah, which is flagrantly involved [in the conflict] on the side of the Assad regime," the statement added. The situation in the border area could "explode," said the group, while calling on rebel FSA brigades in Homs province "to show restraint and to respect Lebanon's sovereign borders out of keenness on the safety of civilians."Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Syria's civil war: a Middle East crisis
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But the local Shiite residents of Hermel and the northern Bekaa, almost all of whom are staunch supporters of Hezbollah, warn that they will not allow the FSA to shell their homes at will.
"They [the FSA] are trying to start a Sunni-Shiite war. But we are pulling ourselves back right now because we don't want to be dragged into a conflict. But the people here are ready to cross the border right now and kill the people who are firing at us," says Ali Nasreddine, a local businessman from Hermel.
The FSA first fired into Shiite-populated areas of the northern Bekaa on Feb. 16, when two homemade rockets hit the border village of Qasr but failed to explode. In the past week, however, there has been a significant escalation in the number of rocket and mortar attacks against the area.
On April 14, a resident of Qasr and a teenager in nearby Hawsh Sayyed Ali were killed. Since then, rockets have struck the area on a near daily basis. On Saturday, Hermel, 10 miles south of the border, was hit for the first time, signaling an expansion of the border shelling. A second rocket hit close to a hospital in Hermel around noon Sunday.
Mr. Nasreddine, who lives only a few minutes drive from the border, says that the fighting around Qusayr in recent days is the heaviest he has heard since the uprising against the Assad regime began more than two years ago. As he spoke in the courtyard of his home, a Syrian air force jet whispered through the clouds to the north, followed seconds later by the rumble of a large explosion, suggesting another air strike against rebel-held villages near Qusayr. More distant explosions were followed by the sharper report of two closer blasts just across the border.
"It has been like this all week. It looks like they are getting ready for an attack on Qusayr," he says, voicing the views of most people in the area.
Syrian opposition activists said the fighting has focussed on the villages of Radwaniyah, Burhaniyah, and Tel Nabi Mindo, all of which lie just west of Qusayr and have reportedly been captured by Syrian troops. Tel Nabi Mindo has a long history of conflict. It is the modern-day site of Kadesh where in 1274BC the rival Egyptian and Hittite empires fought one of recorded history's earliest battles. The pro-Syrian regime newspaper, Al-Watan, said that the Army had gained control over the villages around Qusayr.
"There is a big change in the army's tactics. It has become more precise in securing its objectives," the newspaper said.
However, Syrian opposition activists claimed that the army was only able to capture the villages with the assistance of Hezbollah fighters.
"The only reason why the regime is advancing on Qusayr area is because of Hezbollah's troops," Qusayr-based activist Hadi al-Abdullah told Agence France Presse. "Hezbollah fighters advance on the ground while the [Syrian] air force gives them cover."