Officials: Syrian aircraft strike near pro-rebel Lebanese border town

Associated Press + More

By DIAA HADID, Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian warplanes carried out a series of airstrikes near a Lebanese border town on Wednesday, officials said, the latest spillover of Syria's civil war into its neighbor.

In another border incident related to the Syrian war, Israeli troops opened fire on two suspected militants as they were trying to plant an explosive device on the Jewish state's frontier with Syria, the Israeli military said.

Lebanese state media said at least three strikes hit near the town of Arsal in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa valley, 12 kilometers (seven miles) from the Syrian border. One blasts wounded a Syrian refugee woman and girl, said a resident.

Arsal's residents strongly support the Syrian rebels, who regularly use the surrounding rugged hills as a supply route into Syria. It lies just across from the rugged Qalamoun region, where forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have been on the offensive since February, trying to seize the rebel-held town of Yabroud.

Deputy mayor Ahmad Fliti said at least eight strikes hit around the town's edges and the desolate Wadi Hmaied area, where hundreds of Syrian refugees — some of the tens of thousands in the area — live in a sprawling tent encampment.

Kasem Alzein, a Syrian doctor who lives in Arsal said a 30-year-old woman and seven-year-old girl in Wadi Hmaied were wounded in the strikes. Alzein said one blasts went off hundreds of meters (yards) from a school, forcing teachers and students to flee.

While Syrian aircraft have struck near Arsal in the past, deputy mayor Fliti said the air attacks have intensified since that campaign began.

The Israeli military meanwhile said that "hits were identified" in the shooting incident on the Golan Heights.

The military claimed the attackers were affiliated with Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite group committed to Israel's destruction. However, it would not explain how it knew of the men's ties with the group.

Hezbollah officials were not immediately available for comment.

Israel and Hezbollah battled to a stalemate during a monthlong war in the summer of 2006.

Tensions between the two foes spiked last week, when Israeli aircraft struck Hezbollah positions inside Lebanon. Hezbollah said it would retaliate but it was not clear if Wednesday's incident was related to that threat.

Attacks toward Israel from the Syrian border have been unusual, even during the past three years of the civil war.

For the past year, Hezbollah has been embroiled in Syria's conflict, openly dispatching its fighters to battle alongside Assad-loyal forces.

Israel has had to contend with a minor spillover from the war, with sporadic fire from the fighting along the frontier area hitting Israel on occasion.

Israel says Hezbollah has used the fighting in Syria as a cover to transfer weapons to Lebanon. Israeli leaders have repeatedly vowed to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining sophisticated arms that could alter the current balance of power.

Israel has carried out a series of covert airstrikes in Syria over the past year that targeted shipments of weapons believed to be bound for Hezbollah.

____

Associated Press writer Tia Goldenberg contributed to this report from Jerusalem.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.