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Syria fires at rebels within Lebanon

For the first time since the uprising began, Syrian jets target rebel hideouts across the border

Syrian warplanes fired at targets in northeast Lebanon Monday, ostensibly marking the first time Damascus has shot at rebels beyond its borders since the civil war began two years ago.

The jets fired four projectiles at the town of Arsal, located near the mountainous Lebanese-Syrian border in the Bekaa Valley, according to AFP, which quoted an unnamed Lebanese military official.

Hezbollah’s al-Manar news outlet claimed the warplanes targeted two barns used by anti-Assad fighters.

No casualties were reported.

The area is known for being staunchly against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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Ahmad al-Fliti, the deputy mayor of Arsal, told Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper that Syrian warplanes had dropped two bombs in the vicinity of the town. He confirmed that there weren’t any injuries but that material damage was caused.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed the media reports in her daily briefing and called the incident a significant escalation.

“We can confirm what you are seeing in the press, that regime jets and helicopters did fire rockets into northern Lebanon,” she said. “This constitutes a significant escalation in the violations of Lebanese sovereignty that the Syrian regime has been guilty of. These kinds of violations of sovereignty are absolutely unacceptable.”

Although Lebanon has publicly committed to staying neutral in the Syrian conflict, Hezbollah is supportive of the Assad regime while the country’s opposition is largely in favor of the uprising.

Syria threatened over the past few weeks that it would use force to prevent armed fighters from entering the country from Lebanon. Earlier this week, Lebanese opposition member Fouad Siniora, a former prime minister, called for Lebanon to deploy its army along the border with Syria to confront any possible Syrian aggression.

In a separate incident on Monday, Lebanon’s National News Agency said Israeli warplanes dropped flares over the Mediterranean Sea, just off the coast near the southernmost town of Naqoura.

The Lebanese army did not immediately confirm the report.

Earlier Monday, the army issued statements alleging a series of violations of Lebanese airspace by Israeli jets.

Israel has escalated its flights over Lebanon in recent weeks amid regional tensions resulting mainly from the civil war in neighboring Syria.

The Israeli military declined to comment on the reports.

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