Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Lebanese soldiers ride in the back of an army vehicle with detained suspected militants in the Lebanese town of Arsal, a primarily Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Sunday, Aug 3, 2014. At least 10 Lebanese Army soldiers were killed and over a dozen were captured in Arsal, while tens of militants have been killed, during clashes between the Army and Syrian armed groups, according to security sources. (AP Photo)
Syrian rebels kill 10 soldiers, capture others in Lebanon
First Published Aug 03 2014 08:54 pm • Last Updated Aug 03 2014 08:54 pm

Beirut • Syrian rebels killed 10 Lebanese troops and likely captured over a dozen more in a raid on a Lebanese border town, the country’s military chief said, the most serious spillover of violence yet into the tiny country from its neighbor’s civil war.

The capture of Lebanese soldiers and police raised fears that the country could become further entangled in the Syrian civil war and could worsen already-brewing sectarian tensions.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"What happened today is more serious than what some people imagine," Lebanon’s army chief, Gen. Jean Kahwaji, told journalists.

As fighting raged Sunday, some residents tried to flee from the eastern Lebanese border town of Arsal, home to 40,000 residents and 120,000 Syrian refugees.

The attack began Saturday as Syrian rebels made a cross-border raid into Arsal, some 90 kilometers (55 miles) from the capital, Beirut. The clashes continued into Sunday around the municipal building and an army checkpoint, Lebanon’s state news agency reported. Local television footage showing wailing ambulances racing into town and soldiers standing guard just outside its limits.

The raid came hours after the army said troops detained Syrian Imad Ahmad Jomaa, who identified himself as a member of the Nusra Front. The state-run National News Agency said Jomaa was detained as he was being brought to a hospital in Lebanon after being wounded while fighting Syrian troops.

The Nusra Front is one of the most powerful groups fighting to overthrow the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The army chief said the fighters belonged to extremist Sunni groups, but did not name them. He said the fighting had killed 10 soldiers, while 13 were missing.

"They may be prisoners of terrorist groups," he said.

A video uploaded to an account associated with the Nusra Front showed over a dozen captured Lebanese soldiers and police officers. In the video, the men announced their defections from the Lebanese army and the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, whose forces are fighting in Syria in support of Assad.

story continues below
story continues below

The video of the men’s capture appeared authentic and corresponded with Associated Press reporting on the attack in Arsal. But the men appeared uncomfortable as they repeated similar statements as many refused to look at the camera.

A trickle of vehicles packed with residents fled Arsal on Sunday. Thousands more were stuck, said Mohammed Ezeldeen, who drove to Beirut in a car packed with 15 people.

"Between the shelling and shelling, there’s shelling," Ezeldeen said by phone. "People can’t leave because there are clashes around the main checkpoint."

Deputy Mayor Ahmad Fliti said rebels killed three civilians when residents rushed to defend the town’s police station. Arsal resident Ezeldeen said he heard a similar account.

The deputy mayor said another seven Syrian refugees were killed after a shell slammed into the tent encampment. United Nations officials, who oversee Syrian refugees in Lebanon, did not respond to requests for comment.

Syria’s civil war has spilled over into Lebanon on multiple occasions, and inflamed sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shiites, leaving scores dead. However, previous rebel raids never went so deeply into Lebanese territory. Rebels also directly challenged Lebanese security forces for the first time in their assault on Arsal.

Lebanon’s Sunni and Shiite communities have lined up on opposing side of Syria’s civil war. Sunnis, including those in Arsal, broadly support the Sunni rebels fighting against Assad. Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees live in and around Arsal and rebels sometimes use the town as a base. Shiites typically back Assad.

Syria’s conflict began in March 2011 as a popular uprising against Assad’s rule, but turned into an insurgency after government forces violently cracked down on demonstrators. It has since become civil war with sectarian overtones. Over 170,000 people, mostly combatants, have been killed in Syria in more than three years of fighting, activists say.

The killed included at least 34 people from government shelling of a market in the rebel-held town of Kafr Batna and the nearby town of Douma, both near the capital, Damascus on Sunday, said activists.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the toll was likely to rise from the airstrikes. Activist Husam Taqieldeen, who also reported the strikes, provided a higher death toll. Conflicting death tolls are common after such attacks.

The Observatory obtains its information from a network of activists on the ground.

Next Page >

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.