Syrian jets bomb Lebanon border area | News | DW | 18.03.2013
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Syrian jets bomb Lebanon border area

Warplanes from Syria are reported to have bombed targets on the border it shares with Lebanon. This came several days after Damascus warned Beirut to expel Syrian rebel groups taking refuge in Lebanon.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the air strikes, which reportedly targeted Syrian rebel positions in eastern Lebanon, specifically a remote area near the town of Arsal, according to security sources cited by news agencies and Lebanon's state-run National News Agency.

Arsal, about 125 kilometers (77 miles) from the capital, Beirut, is made up of Sunni Muslim residents who mainly support the Syrian rebel fight against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

"Syrian planes bombed the border between Lebanon and Syria but I cannot yet say if they hit Lebanese territory or only Syrian territory," a military official told the news agency AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The attacks came four days after Damascus warned Beirut it would not tolerate Syrian rebels taking refuge in Lebanon.

"Syria expects the Lebanese side to prevent these armed terrorist groups from using the borders as a crossing point, because they target Syrian people and are violating Syrian sovereignty,” the foreign ministry said in a diplomatic cable sent to Beirut on Thursday, according to Syria's official SANA news agency.

The Syrian foreign ministry told the Lebanese government that “Syrian forces have so far exercised restraint from striking at armed gangs inside Lebanese territory.” But Damascus warned Beirut that its “patience is not unlimited.”

Lebanon has remained neutral in the ongoing violence in Syria, which on Friday entered its third year, but the country has been on edge since the start of the uprising. Gunmen from opposing sides to the war have clashed frequently in Lebanon, which has led to fears the country is increasingly at risk of being dragged into the conflict.

The United Nations says the Syrian civil war has killed an estimated 70,000 people.

Syrian opposition meets to choose new PM

Meanwhile, on Monday, Syria's opposition coalition opened a two day meeting in Istanbul to select their first prime minister to head an interim government. The prime minister will oversee rebel-held areas of the divided country.

Once elected, the rebel premier's first task will be to appoint a new government, based inside Syria, which must be approved by the Coalition.

The Syrian National Coalition is recognized by dozens of countries and organizations as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people, however some believe a rebel government would have little chance of dialogue with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and further harden battle lines.

jr/pfd (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)