Syrian rebels raid town inside Lebanon, killing two soldiers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 August, 2014, 6:53am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 August, 2014, 6:53am

Syrian rebels crossed into Lebanon yesterday, raiding a border town and killing two soldiers, the most serious incursion into the country by fighters from its neighbour's three-year civil war.

Masked gunmen roamed the streets of Arsal as Lebanese helicopter gunships flew over the town, some 88km from Beirut.

A Lebanese general said the gunmen attacked army positions near Arsal and troops returned fire. Another official said the gunmen also took control of the main police station in the town.

Lebanon's state-run National News Agency reported that the gunmen killed two soldiers and wounded several others. It also said they killed two residents near the police station.

The agency said Arsal residents later freed police officers at the station, though rebels captured some weapons and released several detainees.

The general said gunmen took a number of soldiers and police officers from their homes in Arsal, as well as two soldiers who were driving an army tanker truck. It was not clear if they were taken across the border into Syria or if they were still in Arsal.

The Lebanese army pledged to respond in a "decisive and firm" manner to prevent the Syrian conflict spilling over the border.

"The army will not allow any party to transfer the battle from Syria to its territory [Lebanon]," the statement said.

"The army will be decisive and firm in its response and will not remain silent as foreigners try to turn our land into a field for crime and terrorism, murder and kidnapping."

Yesterday's attacks came several hours after the Lebanese army said troops detained Syrian citizen Imad Ahmad Jomaa, who identified himself as a member of Syria's jihadist Nusra Front. The National News Agency said Jomaa was detained as he was being brought to a hospital in Lebanon after being wounded during a fight with troops inside Syria.

The violence also came after an ambush near Syria's border with Lebanon killed dozens of opposition fighters, activists said. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian troops and members of Lebanon's Hezbollah group ambushed opposition fighters near the Lebanese border, killing at least 50 of them.

It said seven troops and Hezbollah fighters were killed.