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Syrian warplanes bomb northern Lebanon





Syrian warplanes bomb northern Lebanon

Syria has been accused of seriously violating the sovereignty of neighbouring Lebanon after its warplanes bombed the north of the country for the first time.

The US State Department said Syrian regime jets and helicopters fired rockets into northern Lebanon, hitting the Wadi al-Khayl area near the border town of Arsal.

France, which has troops in Lebanon as part of a UN peacekeeping force, condemned the air strikes.

"The air raid carried out by the armed forces of the Syrian regime in Lebanese territory ...constitutes a new and serious violation of Lebanon's sovereignty," foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said in a statement.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called the attack "a significant escalation in the violations of Lebanese sovereignty that the Syrian regime has been guilty of.

"These kinds of violations of sovereignty are absolutely unacceptable," she said.

Lebanon has publicly committed itself to staying neutral in the violence engulfing Syria, but the conflict has already exacerbated tensions and there are growing fears it could spill over into the country.

A high-ranking Lebanese army official told the AFP news agency that four missiles had been fired by Syrian warplanes in a mountainous, desert area, which observers said was ideal for the smuggling of arms and the flow of fighters across the border.

Meanwhile Syrian rebels said they had fired mortar bombs at the presidential palace, the Damascus International Airport and security buildings to mark the second anniversary of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

A statement posted on an opposition Facebook page said rebel groups had fired "a number of 120mm heavy calibre mortars ... in a joint operation coordinated with battalions operating in Damascus."

The reports could not be independently verified.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists across the country, said several rockets fell in districts near the presidential palace. But it said it could not confirm if the building was actually hit, nor whether there were any casualties.

Rebels who are fighting to end four decades of Assad family rule have overrun suburbs on the outskirts of the capital but are unable to break into the centre of the city.

They have hit the airport and the palace before, but Mr Assad is no longer believed to be living there.

Some 70,000 people have been killed over the past two years in a revolt that started with peaceful protests but descended into a civil war after Assad's forces shot and arrested thousands of opposition members.




 














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