by Caroline Akoum
Clash is first time Lebanese military has responded to cross-border attacks
The sources said the army fired machine guns at Syrian military helicopters which attacked targets in Khirbet Daoud, near the settlement of Arsal, in the Beqaa Valley.
This was the first time Lebanese forces had fired at Syrian aircraft since the start of the Syrian conflict, despite reports of numerous Syrian raids on Lebanese territory.
Arsal is a predominantly Sunni Muslim village in northeast Lebanon. Its residents are seen as sympathetic to the uprising against the Alawite Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. The area is also home to many Syrian refugees who have fled the war across the border.
Ahmad Al-Flaiti, an MP and deputy mayor of Arsal, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Syrian aircraft hovered for many hours through the night over the area Khirbet Daoud where some 500 Syrian families have taken refuge, and bombed it.”
Flaiti said “they tell us they are fighting terrorists, so, let them tell us what their targets are and where are they?”
He also said that he feared that the camps housing Syrian refugees could become targets of Syrian bombardment at any time.
Sources said Syrian military aircraft fired missiles at a delegation from a Syrian village on their way to Arsal to attend a funeral. They said three people from Arsal were waiting for the delegation near Al-Rahwa area when they were attacked by Syrian aircraft.
This is the first retaliation by the Lebanese army against Syrian forces, although the area has come under Syrian army attack on a number of occasions, the last of which was last October, when a bus carrying injured people from inside Syria was attacked.
Lebanese army commanders said a Syrian helicopter violated Lebanese airspace near the Arsal area and fired two missiles towards the center of the town. The army command added that “army units in the area took defensive measures to respond immediately to any further violations.”
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman in June delivered a letter to the Arab League’s representative in Lebanon, and another to UN’s special coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly.
Suleiman “informed them of the Syrian violations which Lebanon demands will not be repeated.” He pointed to violations of Lebanese borders by all warring sides in the Syrian conflict and called for the UN secretary-general to be informed of the issue and to raise the issue with the UN Security Council.
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