BEIRUT — Missiles fired by Syrian warplanes hit Lebanese territory Monday in one of the most serious cross-border violations since Syria's crisis began 18 months ago, security officials in Beirut and Lebanese state media said.
officials, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations,
said four missiles fired by two Syrian jets hit a rugged and remote
area on the edge of the Lebanese border town of Arsal. No casualties
were immediately reported.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman ordered an investigation into the border shelling Monday, without openly blaming Syria.
state-run National News Agency reported that the warplanes fired three
missiles that fell on the outskirts of Arsal about 500 meters (yards)
from the border between the two countries.
“I heard several
explosions and saw four clouds of dust billowing from the area,” Arsal
resident Nayeh Izzedine said by telephone referring to the border. “I
don’t know if it was an air raid but there was a plane in the sky.”
He added that the town had been quiet two hours after the 10 a.m. attack.
Syrian forces were believed to be chasing rebels in the area, which has
been the site of clashes in the past between opposition fighters
battling Syrian troops just on the other side of the frontier. Lebanese
armed forces have in the past detained people in the region for trying
to smuggle weapons into Syria from Lebanon.
Arsal is a
predominantly Sunni Muslim town, like the majority of Syria’s opposition
that is trying to oust President Bashar Assad from power. Assad belongs
to the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
shells have hit Lebanese territory in the past but the air raid appears
to be the most serious violation. Several Lebanese, including a
journalist, have been killed and dozens wounded by fire coming from the
Also Monday, Syrian troops shelled rebel-held areas
around the country including the northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s
largest, and the Damascus neighborhood of Hajar Aswad, activists said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and another
activist group the Local Coordination Committees also reported clashes
between troops and rebels.
On the diplomatic front, Egypt’s
President Mohammed Morsi held talks with the Turkish foreign minister on
Syria’s crisis, while Iran’s top diplomat joined counterparts from the
two countries later in the evening to seek an end to the war.
the Cairo meeting, foreign ministers from the three countries said they
had found common ground between them, but that a solution would not
come easy. Cairo is trying to persuade Iran to drop its unquestioned
support of Assad in exchange for help in easing Tehran’s regional
isolation, officials close to the Egyptian presidency said last week.
Geneva, an independent U.N. panel confirmed that an increasing number
of “foreign elements,” including Islamic extremists, are now operating
in Syria, in its first report to say that outsiders have joined a war
spiraling out of control.
The investigative panel appointed by the
Human Rights Council says some of these forces are joining armed
anti-government groups while others are operating on their own.
elements tend to push anti-government fighters toward more radical
positions,” the head of the panel, Brazilian diplomat and professor
Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, told diplomats.
The Syrian uprising, which
began with largely peaceful protests, has since morphed into a deadly
armed insurgency. Hundreds of people are killed every week as the
government increasingly relies on air power to try to crush the rebels.
Activists say more than 23,000 have been killed in the conflict.
government denies that there is any popular will behind the revolt,
saying it is driven by foreigners and terrorists. The regime could use
the U.N. panel’s report to bolster its claims.
Rebels deny that
foreigners had any role starting the revolt, which was one of a series
of uprisings known as the Arab Spring. Rebels say Syrians were seeking
increased freedom from the autocratic regime. But as the conflict
dragged on, some rebels acknowledged the presence of small numbers of
foreigners among their ranks.
The U.N. panel also accused
government forces and pro-regime militiamen known as “shabiha” of war
crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, summary
executions, torture, arbitrary arrests, sexual violence and abuse of
children. It also accused anti-government armed groups of war crimes
including murder, extrajudicial execution and torture.
In a report
Monday, Human Rights Watch said it documented more than a dozen
extrajudicial and summary executions by opposition forces.
three opposition leaders who were confronted with evidence of
extrajudicial executions said those who killed deserved to be killed,
and that only the “worst criminals were being executed.”
York-based group said torture and extrajudicial or summary executions of
detainees in the context of an armed conflict are war crimes, and may
constitute crimes against humanity if they are widespread and