Hizbullah Captures 14 Syrian Rebels as Border Fighting Death Toll Hits 16

Hizbullah has taken into captivity 14 Syrian rebels as the death toll from its clashes with armed groups on the Lebanese-Syrian border has risen to 16, a monitoring group said Monday.

In the evening, LBCI television said “clashes with heavy- and medium-caliber weapons have renewed in the Eastern Mountain Belt amid Syrian air raids targeting the gunmen.”

“The sounds of explosions are being heard in Arsal and the neighboring villages,” LBCI added.

Meanwhile, al-Jadeed TV said al-Nusra Front leader Ahmed Yaqzan was killed in the fighting.

"Seven members of Hizbullah were killed and 31 wounded" in the clashes which raged from Saturday until Sunday night, Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said earlier on Monday.

He told Agence France Presse that the Syrian rebels lost nine fighters and 23 of them were wounded in the battle waged in an undemarcated area of the border between Qalamun in Syria and Lebanon's Arsal.

Giving a higher death toll of eight Hizbullah fighters killed, a wounded member of the group told AFP on condition of anonymity: "The battle was very fierce, and at very close quarters."

Hizbullah initiated the showdown in a bid to rid the region of rebel fighters following a string of daily clashes, said Abdel Rahman.

"But they fell into an ambush by rebels ... before Hizbullah reinforcements arrived and the fighting intensified," he said, adding that the Lebanese group captured 14 rebels.

On Sunday, a Hizbullah source and a Lebanese security official gave a preliminary toll of three Hizbullah fighters and three Syrian rebels killed.

The long and porous border region is often used by smugglers, refugees and fighters.

Arsal and the area around it are largely sympathetic with the Sunni-led uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

In April, Syrian forces backed by allied fighters from Hizbullah retook control of most of the Qalamun region.

But Syrian activists say hundreds of opposition fighters have taken refuge in the caves and hills in the border area, using it as a rear base from which to launch attacks inside Syria.

Last month, Lebanese Army forces carried out raids in the area targeting militants with ties to "terrorist groups," an army statement said at the time.

Source: Agence France Presse, Naharnet

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