Eight Syrian army defectors were killed Wednesday in clashes on Lebanon’s eastern border, security sources told The Daily Star.
The incident took place as the United Nations released its latest report on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, as Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon condemned deadly Syrian military incursions into Lebanon and urged Damascus to cease all incursions and respect Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Separately, a statement from the French Foreign Ministry said France “condemns the repeated incursions by the Syrian army into Lebanon, which for the second time, has resulted in the deaths of people on Lebanese territory.” The statement was apparently referring to an incident the day before, in the same area.
“Syria must fully respect the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon. We also call on Lebanese authorities to watch after the protection of all people fleeing the blooding repression by Syria against its population,” the statement added.
Conflicting accounts emerged about Wednesday’s violence, which saw two Syrian officers and six soldiers, all defectors, killed in a fierce clash with the Syrian army near the Bekaa border village of Al-Qaa.
Lebanese Army sources said the killings took place in Syria.
Al-Qaa and other nearby towns and villages in the Bekaa have no clear borders between Syria and Lebanon, and many of the residents in the area hold dual nationality.
A resident with a dual nationality who witnessed the clashes near Al-Qaa told The Daily Star that following the firefight, the Syrian Army arrested 10 people inside Lebanon and took them across the border into Syria.
“At least two of them were Lebanese,” said the man, who refused to identify himself for security reasons.
The eyewitness said that three of his nephews had been killed the day before in an incursion in the same region, adding that the area has become “completely unstable.”
“We don’t know where to go … we are being pressured from both sides … the Syrian Army and the Lebanese authorities are both targeting us, we don’t know who to talk to,” he added.
“The security incidents taking place at the border have become increasingly dangerous. There is no place to hide now and there is no safe haven for us and many other Lebanese,” the eyewitness added.
Following the incursion Wednesday, several residents said they asked nearby units of Internal Security Forces for assistance but they said that no ISF personnel responded.
“All we ask is for the Lebanese Army to be here and protect our lives,” the residents pleaded.
March 14 parties lashed out at Syria in the wake of the killings.
Deputy Speaker Farid Makari said the Lebanese government’s failure to confront Syrian incursions undermined state authority.
“This is an insult to Lebanon and its people and undermines the authority of the state and its institutions,” Makari said.
Some recent security reports justified the Syrian incursions as the result of confusion over the exact location of the border, in the absence of demarcation.Makari, an MP for Koura and a March 14 official, dismissed such justifications and accused government officials of leaking such information as a pretext to cover for violations.
For its part, the March 14 Secretariat General said the Syrian regime was expanding its grip in Lebanon through its embassy apparatus.
“The expansion of the Syrian regime in Lebanon includes more than incursions into Lebanese territories,” the secretariat said in a statement.
“The Syrian regime is not only hinting at the possibility of establishing permanent posts in Lebanon or the armament of pro-Syrian factions but also playing a major role through the Syrian ambassador and its embassy apparatus in oppressing solidarity with the Syrian people through the abduction of activists,” the secretariat added.
The Internal Security Forces recently released a report implicating the Syrian Embassy and its ISF personnel in the kidnappings of Syrian opposition figures.
In May, Shibli Aisamy, a Syrian dissident and one of the founding members of the Baath Party, went missing in the town of Aley.
For his part, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea urged the judiciary to follow up on the abductions and accused the government of failing to defend the country’s sovereignty.
“The kidnapping of Syrian citizens on Lebanese territory is dangerous since it undermines the authority of the state and its institutions. Even worse, how can we explain the involvement of a military officer in such an act?” Geagea asked, referring to Lieutenant Salah Ali Hajj, the head of the Syrian Embassy guard unit.