Syrian family crossing into Lebanon fleeing the fighting inside the country. It is estimated that 200,000 have fled Syria., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Syrian violence claims Lebanese lives
Paige Kollock , Special for USA TODAY12:27 a.m. EDT May 29, 2013
Gunmen kill three soldiers at checkpoint
Terrorists targeting army, ex-general says
Hezbollah taking a hand in conflict
BEIRUT — Three soldiers from the Lebanese army were the latest fatalities in the deep escalation of violence hitting Lebanon as a result of the Syrian revolution, causing concern over the spread of the conflict regionally.
A group of gunmen in a black jeep fatally shot the three soldiers at a checkpoint in the northeast town of Arsal, a predominantly Sunni enclave close to the Lebanese-Syrian border. The gunmen escaped into Syria.
The town of Arsal is a smuggling route between the two countries, and these days, weapons are the main item being ferried across. Arsal is also the temporary home to thousands of Syrian refugees who have flooded over the border in the past two years.
Manifestations of the war in Syria have played out in Lebanon over the past few weeks, paving the way toward what could be a violent summer. Hezbollah's overt involvement in the war has also brought the fight closer to home.
"What happened this morning is a real terrorist operation against the army," said Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese army general and president of the Center for Middle East Studies.
"The army is just there trying to maintain order and trying to forbid movement back and forth, and as such, they will continue to be the target," he said, suggesting the operation may have been aimed at driving the military out of the region.
In Hermel, a Lebanese town near the Syrian border with a heavily Shiite population, rockets fired from Syria injured three civilians early Tuesday and killed one Monday.
The Syrians are fighting for control of Qusayr, a mountainous Syrian town of strategic value to both sides. For the opposition, control of Qusair means protecting a supply line to Lebanon 6 miles away. For President Bashar Assad's troops, it's a corridor linking the capital of Damascus to key Alawite towns from which he draws support.
"We have been living the spillover of the Syrian regime for over 60 years," said Moustafa Alloush, an official in the Western-allied Future Movement. "Most of the violence that has occurred in Lebanon is from Syria, and unfortunately, I don't think this is the end of it. Now we're seeing the consequences of Hezbollah's involvement in the war."
The spread of the civil war over Syria's borders comes as outside nations try to influence events and prevent an escalation of violence.
The European Union lifted an arms embargo on Syria late Monday, creating the possibility that Western nations will begin arming the rebels to even the odds against the Syrian government.
Russia, allied with Assad and supplying his military with heavy weaponry to beat back the rebellion, lashed out at the EU decision as a risk of wider warfare. It claimed its own delivery of weapons to Syria, including the impending arrival of sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles, is meant only to prevent the West from making matters worse.
Israel has warned it may boost its presence militarily if Russia keeps up arms shipments that can be used against its country. Israel said Tuesday it is prepared to attack any missile shipments to Syria that could be transferred to Syria's Hezbollah allies. The U.S.-designated terror group based in southern Lebanon has been sending fighters to help Assad, and convoys of weapons it has tried to move into Lebanon have been bombed from the air by Israel in recent weeks.
France and Britain hope the new EU position on the arms embargo on rebels can help prod the two sides in Syria and Russia to enter peace talks scheduled next month in Geneva.
In Lebanon's second-largest city, Tripoli, 29 have been killed in sectarian fighting over the past few days. In Beirut, which endured a brutal civil war two decades ago, people shrugged their shoulders and tried to get on with life.
Even as a pair of rockets slammed into a Beirut neighborhood early Sunday morning, leaving four men wounded, an annual 10K race for women through the streets of the capital went on without a hitch.
"I didn't even reconsider going to the beach on Sunday," Zeina Abdullah said. "We got used to this from the minute we grew up. We cannot stop our lives."
"If it's not on your same street, you don't have a problem," Rami el Khal said. "You remember the riots that happened outside London in 2011? Tourists were still going to London. Remember the violence in the Paris suburbs in 2005? No one stopped their lives. It's the same here. The parts we're reading about in the news are so close to Syria that they cannot but be affected, but to us in Beirut, it's like another world."