Lebanese fighters reported killed inside Syria
BY Associated Press
Saturday, December 01, 2012
12/01/12 at 6:21 AM
Syrian security forces killed as many as 20 Lebanese gunmen who were fighting alongside rebels in Syria on Friday, raising tensions amid mounting fears that the Syrian civil war is enflaming the region.
The Lebanese security officials said the gunmen were killed as they tried to enter the Syrian town of Tal Kalakh, near the Lebanese border. The officials asked that their names not be used because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Syrian state-run media also reported that Lebanese gunmen were killed. But the SANA report said there were 17 - not 20 - fighters. The discrepancy could not immediately be reconciled.
The Lebanese gunmen were Sunni Muslims, as are the vast majority of Syria's rebels. Syrian President Bashar Assad - along with his most elite troops - belong to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Lebanon is particularly vulnerable to getting sucked into the conflict in Syria. The countries share a complex web of political and sectarian ties and rivalries that are easily enflamed.
Lebanon, a country plagued by decades of strife, has been on edge since the uprising in Syria against Assad began in March 2011, with deadly clashes between pro- and anti-Assad Lebanese groups erupting on several occasions.
The deaths came as rebels have tried to close in on the Syrian capital, Damascus, in recent days.
On Friday, Syrian soldiers fought rebels in and around the capital as Internet and most telephone lines were blacked out for a second day. But the intense battles around the country's international airport appeared to have calmed.
The airport road had reopened by Friday and the head of the Syrian Civil Aviation Agency, Ghaidaa Abdul-Latif, said the airport was operating "as usual." A day earlier, heavy fighting forced the closure of the road and airlines canceled international flights to Damascus.
With pressure building against Assad's regime on several fronts and government forces on their heels in the battle for the northern commercial hub of Aleppo, rebels have recently begun pushing back into Damascus after largely being driven out of the capital following a July offensive.
Original Print Headline: Lebanese gunmen killed in Syria battle
A Free Syrian Army fighter takes position in front of destroyed buildings in Aleppo, Syria, on Thursday. Syrian rebels battled regime troops south of Damascus on Friday as Internet and most telephone lines were cut for a second day. Associated Press