′Syrian helicopter attack′ inside Lebanon | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 12.06.2013
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Middle East

'Syrian helicopter attack' inside Lebanon

Lebanese security officials say a Syrian military helicopter has fired missiles into a Lebanese border town. It would be the first such attack by Syria on an urban site in Lebanon.

A Syrian helicopter fired three missiles into Arsal, a Lebanese town whose Sunni residents back the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday, according to Lebanese officials.

They said one missile landed near Arsal's town square. Several people had been wounded.

Residents in Arsal (pictured above) had reportedly taken in scores of rebels and civilians who fled Qusair, the western Syrian town captured last week by Assad's forces with backing from Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed, Lebanon-based Shiite militia.

More sectarian strife

In a further sign of increasingly sectarian warfare, reports emerged on Wednesday that Sunni Muslim insurgents had killed about 60 Shiite Muslims in the village of Hatla in Syria's eastern region of Deir el-Zour. The oil-rich region borders Iraq.

In Damascus, a Syrian government official said villagers, including children and the elderly had been "massacred." The pro-opposition Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said most of those slain were pro-Assad Shiite militiamen.

It added that the Shiite minority civilians in the predominately Sunni town had fled elsewhere in the province.

Rebels, identified as members of the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, posted a video showing gunmen carrying black Islamist flags and firing guns inside the small town. An activist based in Deir el-Zour said the rebels had staged the attack in retaliation for a Shiite militia raid on Monday in which four rebels were killed.

The Observatory also spoke of heavy clashes in Syria's central city of Homs, mostly in its neighborhood of Wadi Sayeh. It said government forces were trying to separate the main rebel-held areas of the city.

Stop advance, says Fabius

France, meanwhile, urged the international community to stop Assad's forces from converging on Syria's northern hub of Aleppo.

"We must stop this advance before Aleppo, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told France 2 television.

"It is the next target of Hezbollah and the Iranians," Fabius said, referring to the recent capture of Qusair by Assad's military with Hezbollah's backing.

"We must stop this because if the balance of the situation on the ground is not restored, then there will not be a conference in Geneva," Fabius added.

For weeks, the United States and Russia have been trying to organize a peace conference that would bring together rebels and Assad's regime.

The day for talks, initially slated for May, has slipped back to July at the earliest.

Last month, the European Union, under pressure from London and Paris, failed to renew an arms embargo on Syria, leaving individual EU nations free from August 1 to supply weapons to Syria's opposition.

ipj/ccp (AFP, AP,  Reuters)

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