Rising Syria violence spreading to Lebanon

Rising Syria violence spreading to Lebanon

DAMASCUS / BRUSSELS
Rising Syria violence spreading to Lebanon

A Sunni gunman fires during clashes in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon. Street battles pitting Lebanese Sunnis, who generally support the Syrian uprising, against Alawite supporters of al-Assad’s regime kill at least four people since May 15. AP photo

Fierce clashes between Syrian regime forces and armed rebels across Syria yesterday left at least 30 people dead, including 23 soldiers who died in the central city of Rastan.

The situation also continued to deteriorate on the ground in the Lebanese city of Tripoli, where a renewed sectarian struggle between Alawite supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Sunni Muslims left two dead and 16 wounded.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said reports indicated that three troop carriers had been destroyed in the clashes that began at dawn on the outskirts of rebel-held Rastan in Homs province. A lieutenant who had defected was also killed in the clashes, and random regime gunfire reportedly left two civilians dead in the city of Homs itself. Regime forces had launched an offensive on Rastan over the weekend, but were met with sharp resistance from rebels.

“The regime forces fired 300 rockets at Rastan over the course of two hours, before launching their assault,” Sami Kurdi, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) spokesman for Homs province told Agence France-Presse from Rastan. “The army tried to advance on the city at dawn but it met fierce resistance from FSA soldiers massed there,” he added. Rastan, 25 kilometers north of Homs, has slipped in and out of government control several times since the uprising against al-Assad erupted in March 2011.

The Observatory also reported deadly violence elsewhere yesterday, with three civilians killed by regime forces’ gunfire in southern Daraa province, and one in Quraya in the eastern province of Deir ez-Zor, bringing the number of people reportedly killed in one day to at least 30.

EU slaps on new sanctions

The uprising in Syria also fueled intense clashes in neighboring Lebanon for a third day yesterday, with gunmen firing assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades as sectarian tensions spilled across the border.

Two men were killed and at least 20 people were wounded in clashes between Alawite supporters of al-Assad and Sunni Muslims in the Lebanese city of Tripoli, medical sources said yesterday, according to Reuters.

At least five people have been killed in Lebanon’s second-largest city, Tripoli, since gun battles erupted late May 12. Lebanon and Syria share a complex web of political and sectarian ties and rivalries, which are easily enflamed. Syria is overwhelmingly Sunni, but al-Assad and the ruling elite belong to the minority Alawite sect. The uprising has exacerbated Sunni-Alawite tensions in Lebanon as well, sparking the clashes in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.

Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers imposed a 15th round of sanctions on al-Assad due to the “appalling violence” in Syria, and expressed further support for Kofi Annan’s peace plan. A statement said that the ministers had frozen the assets of two further entities financially supporting the regime and targeted three people with a travel ban and asset freeze, “in view of the gravity of the situation.” The new sanctions, to take effect on Tuesday, mean that 128 people and 43 firms or utilities are now targeted by an asset freeze or travel ban, for backing the regime’s 14-month campaign of relentless repression.

Syria, Middle East