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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.

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Hezbollah denies accusations that it has sent fighters into Syria to help Assad crush the rebellion. But the group has conceded that some members of Hezbollah who live in several Lebanese Shiite villages just inside Syria are fighting to defend their homes from attack by Syrian rebels.

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In recent months Hezbollah has held a number of funerals for dead fighters, killed while "performing their jihadi duty" in otherwise unexplained circumstances. It has become common knowledge in Shiite circles in Lebanon that Hezbollah fighters are operating in some regions of Syria, particularly Damascus and the villages around Qusayr.

The Syrian rebels accuse Hezbollah of firing rockets from Hawsh Sayyed Ali, a narrow, wooded finger of territory poking into Syria, and say that their own attacks are aimed at military positions belonging to the Shiite group. However, the rockets have struck civilian areas, including a mosque and homes, or impacted in open land. Videos uploaded to YouTube that show the rebel units launching 107mm rockets and 120mm mortars toward Lebanon suggest that little attention is paid to accurate firing. Many of the rounds have even failed to explode.

"Qasr has just been hit by five rockets just a few minutes ago. Thank God none of them exploded," says a furious-looking local official from Qasr standing on the side of the road who only gave his family name, Jaafar. SUVs, marked as Hezbollah vehicles by their lack of license plates and tinted windows, thundered up and down the road.

"There is no government here," Mr. Jaafar says. "We will have to defend ourselves."

Lebanon 'can't bear' any more

Michel Suleiman, the Lebanese president, said that the FSA's targeting of Lebanese border towns "does not achieve demands related to democracy, particularly that Lebanon is already burdened with what it can't bear, which is hosting Syrians and sheltering them."

Some 420,000 Syrians have registered or are awaiting registration with the United Nations as refugees in Lebanon.

Local MPs in the Bekaa Valley have called upon the government to halt the rebel attacks.

"The state should put an end to the continued Syrian attacks on Lebanon. The residents of the border villages have the right to defend themselves," said Ghazi Zeaiter, a lawmaker from the Bekaa region. 

But the Lebanese state has little influence or presence in this remote region, where the fiercely independent local population tends to live by stringent tribal traditions. There is no visible Lebanese army presence north of Hermel, and even if troops were deployed along the border it is unlikely that they would be able to halt a conflict that is not only turning increasingly sectarian between Sunnis and Shiites but also appears to be spiraling out of control.

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