Lebanon Ups Army Patrols After
By: Najla Hammoud Translated from As-Safir (Lebanon).
Are border towns in the northern Lebanese region of Wadi Khaled and Dureib heading toward the unknown? Are the residents of these towns being forced into leaving their homes?
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Violence continues to spread along border towns in the Wadi Khaled area in northern Lebanon. Syrian opposition fighters launched rocket attacks on the Syrian army and retaliation killings have affected Lebanese civilians and Syrians alike, writes Najla Hammoud. Local sources claim that “Wadi Khaled has turned into a real battlefield.”Publisher: As-Safir (Lebanon)
Northern Lebanese Border Towns Have Become a Real Battlefield for the Syrian Army and Syrian Rebels in the Lebanese Army’s absence
Author: Najla Hammoud
First Published: July 11, 2012
Translated by: Stephanie Karam
Categories : Security Egypt
Several security violations have been reported along the [Syrian-Lebanese] border as armed Syrian opposition fighters continue to target Syrian army checkpoints. In retaliation to the rebels’ attacks, the Syrian army has been shelling these border towns. The armed conflict is no longer limited to just shells and bombs.
These Lebanese border towns have been targeted repeatedly, and some of them have become open battlefields for the conflict between rebels and the Syrian army. As a result, some residents — both parents and children — left their homes during the night to take refuge in neighboring towns such as Al-Shaft and Al-Joumah.
It is worth noting that the scope of the conflict is growing by the day. On Monday [July 9], the fighting reached the adjacent border area known as Wadi Khaled, from the towns of Dureib, Dababiyeh, Nourah, Qashlaq and Aamar al-Baiqat to the Al-Sahel towns in Al-Aridah. All of these towns witnessed violent conflicts that lasted until dawn. As a result of the shelling, a Lebanese citizen died from heart failure in Nourah. Moreover, two Syrian refugees were killed on their motorbikes after crashing with a Renault Rapid on the main road between Dababiyeh and Nourah. In Wadi Khaled, gunfire could be heard at midnight along the Lebanese-Syrian border.
The gunfire was particularly intense on the Syrian river bank from the al-Bqa’iah crossing — also known as the al-Qumar bridge — to the illegal al-Shaibi passage that is opposite the Lebanese town of al-Hisheh. Several shells landed inside Lebanese territory, namely in al-Muqaibleh, Bani Sakher and al-Hishah. A shell also exploded near the former customs department, causing serious damage to houses and shops. A gas station in al-Bqa’iah was among the damaged buildings.
Following the incident, the Army Command Orientation Directorate issued a statement. It stated: “At midnight on July 9, gunfire was intermittently exchanged along the Lebanese-Syrian border in Wadi Khaled between the Syrian forces and armed militias. Several shells also fell within Lebanese territory and civilian casualties were recorded... Following such incidents, army units were deployed in the region. They increased their patrols and established mobile checkpoints.”
The statement added that, after coming under fire, the army patrols retaliated using appropriate means. These patrols have tightened all security measures that were adopted to track the sources of the gunfire and addressed the situation immediately.
Joseph Abdullah, president of the municipality of Dababiyeh, said: “A violent mortar attack targeted Dababiyeh and other adjacent towns, forcing the residents to leave their houses and seek refuge in other safer towns, such as Halba, Tal Abbas and Bino in al-Joumah.”
The bombardment reached al-Qawashra, a town that is relatively removed from the borderline. As a result, the residents of the town left their home for the al-Qawashra river bank, which is situated on the other side of the Halba-Beereh main road.
“We do not know the reasons behind the gunfire; however, all possibilities are being considered. The borders are subject to any type of security violation, by any party, because the residents cannot control the border and prevent armed men from infiltrating into the country,” said Abdullah.
In response to the several damaged houses and properties of the citizens, Abdullah stated, “We demand that the High Relief Commission inspect the damages and we expect to see the army deployed at the border, so that the residents can return to their home.”
The mayor of the town of Al-Hishen, Mohamed Dargham al-Ahmad, confirmed the events. “This was the first time that the border came under fire from more than one border town. As a result, the Syrian army retaliated by launching an extremely violent attack, damaging several houses and flocks [of livestock] in shelling. The border towns’ residents were then forced to leave their homes,” said Ahmad.
“We are waiting to deploy the army along the border and establish stationary checkpoints, and hope that such a step will assure the residents and end all of the attacks that are being launched from houses in the town against the Syrian army. Their retaliations against such attacks cause turmoil in the border region, which has now become real battlefield,” he added.
Security sources told As-Safir that armed men gathered on the night of July 9 in Dureib and launched an attack with sophisticated weaponry from the border town of Dababiyeh against a Syrian army checkpoint in the town of Halat. This attack was launched from more than one border crossing, and the Syrian army retaliated with heavy mortar shelling.
“The scene at night in the Wadi Khaled border towns and several towns in Dureib indicates that the region has indeed turned into a real battlefield. The attacks are no longer limited to just a few infiltrating groups. In fact, the armed groups have anti-missile systems and rocket launchers, which can attack the Syrian army from residential areas and other towns relatively further away from the border. This has put residents in great danger,” said the security sources.
The sources added that “These attacks are not meant to kill Syrian soldiers but to distract them, in order for the attackers to smuggle arms into Syria.”
“The Lebanese army will be deployed in the following days. There will be also checkpoints and night patrols, in order to control the situation, which has become extremely dangerous. It threatens the safety of residents, who are forced to leave their homes every day,” they said.
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