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.
The 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. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Lebanon's state-run National News Agency reported that the warplanes fired three missiles that fell on the outskirts of Arsal about 500 meters 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.
The 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 caught 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 off-shoot of Shiite Islam.
Syrian 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 Syrian side.
Also Monday, inside Syria, 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 the Local Coordination Committees also reported clashes between troops and rebels.
In Geneva, an independent U.N. panel confirmed that an increasing number of "foreign elements," including jihadis, 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.
"Such 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 and crush the rebels.
Activists say more than 23,000 have been killed in the conflict.
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