Syria Rebels Confirm Shelling Bekaa, Hizbullah Buries More Fightersإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Syrian rebel commanders have confirmed insurgents had fired shells into Hermel towns on Saturday and Sunday, but denied there were any attacks on Monday.
"Yesterday (Sunday), Hizbullah bombarded Qusayr, Nahriyeh, Burhaniyeh and Saqarji (near the Lebanese border) from its positions in al-Qasr and Hawsh al-Sayyed Ali. They bombed civilians and killed many women and children," said Abu Oday, a commander of the rebel Independent Farouq Division.
"If we have to, we will target civilians just like they do. Our civilians are not less valuable than theirs. Hizbullah is killing arbitrarily in Syria," he told Agence France Presse.
"Yesterday, we responded. We hit back at Hizbullah's positions," he added.
Another rebel leader, Abu Ahmed, said insurgents did not fire into Lebanon on Monday.
"We are giving the Lebanese authorities an opportunity to respond, to take practical steps to put a stop to their shelling, before we respond again."
Meanwhile, residents of the Bekaa valley, a Hizbullah stronghold, told AFP that the bodies of five Hizbullah fighters killed in Syria were brought back on Sunday and Monday for burial.
"Yesterday, we buried a Hizbullah martyr, Assaad Ali Assaad, who was killed in Syria some days ago," said a resident of Khraybeh in the Bekaa.
A security source in southern Lebanon meanwhile told AFP on condition of anonymity that four other fighters from the region had also been killed in Syria.
Future TV reported that Hizbullah held funerals Monday for Ibrahim Jawdat Qansou, who hails from the southern town of Doueir, and Abbas Rihan, who hails from the southern town of Maifadoun, saying they were killed in Syria.
Several Lebanese and Arab TV networks -- including Al-Arabiya, al-Mayadeen and al-Manar – on Monday broadcast a video showing masked fighters belonging to the so-called Popular Committees, which are backed by Hizbullah and the Syrian regime.
The gunmen on the edge of the Lebanese border village of al-Qasr told the Associated Press that their mission is to protect Shiites on the Syrian side who claim their homes, villages and families have come under attack from Sunni rebels.
In recent months, fighting has raged in and around several towns and villages inhabited by a community of some 15,000 Lebanese Shiites who have lived for decades on the Syrian side of a frontier that is not clearly demarcated in places and not fully controlled by border authorities. They are mostly Lebanese citizens, though some have dual citizenship or are Syrian.
Before Syria's uprising erupted two years ago, tens of thousands of Lebanese lived in Syria.
The Lebanese Shiite enclave on the Syrian side of the border is near the central city of Homs and across from Hermel, a predominantly Shiite region of northeastern Lebanon.
One commander of the Popular Committees said Shiite villages have been repeatedly attacked and some residents have been kidnapped and killed by rebels. He said that prompted local Shiites to take up arms to defend themselves.
"We are in a state of defense. We don't take sides (between rebels and regime forces). We are here to defend our people in the villages," said the commander, Mahmoud, who gave only his first name out of fear for his own security.
"We don't attack any area. We only defend our villages."
The border region near Homs on the Syria side is strategic because it links Damascus with the coastal enclave that is the heartland of Syria's Alawites and is also home to the country's two main seaports, Latakia and Tartus.
One of the biggest battles in the area was on Thursday when the Syrian army captured Tal al-Nabi Mindo, a village near the Lebanese border, after a day of heavy fighting.
Mahmoud said there were casualties on both sides, adding that the hilltop village overlooks several towns and villages as well as a strategically important road that links Tartus to Homs and the capital of Damascus beyond.
Mahmoud said some rebel commanders were killed in the fighting on Thursday and rebels threatened to bombard Lebanese territory in retaliation.
On Sunday, two rockets fired from Syria exploded in al-Qasr, killing one person. Two more rockets landed in the nearby village of Hawsh al-Sayyed Ali, killing a 13-year-old boy and damaging two homes.