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Lebanon army slams 'plot' to embroil country in Syria war
by Staff Writers
Beirut (AFP) June 07, 2013

Syria rebels fire on Iraq border posts, one killed
Fallujah, Iraq (AFP) June 09, 2013 - Syrian rebels on Sunday opened fire on two Iraqi border posts along the southern edge of the two countries' frontier, killing one guard and wounding two others, officials said.

Iraqi border guards Colonel Nayif Zaili said Syrian rebels fired on two posts which lay two kilometres (1.25 miles) from the Al-Waleed border crossing linking the two countries.

One Iraqi border guard was killed and two others were wounded, he said. A doctor at a nearby hospital confirmed the toll.

The Syrian side of the Al-Waleed border crossing remains under the control of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, but rebels fighting his rule have sought to take control of it over the course of several months.

Iraq has sought to avoid publicly taking sides between Assad's forces and the opposition, but Western powers accuse Baghdad of turning a blind eye to flights through its airspace allegedly carrying military equipment for the Syrian regime. Iraq denies the charges.

More than 94,000 people have been killed and some 1.6 million Syrians have fled the country since the conflict erupted in March 2011 after Assad cracked down on pro-democracy protests, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Lebanese army warned on Friday that a plot was afoot to embroil the country in the 26-month conflict in neighbouring Syria, as deadly clashes between Damascus supporters and opponents inside Lebanon multiply.

"The army command... calls on citizens to be wary of plots aimed at taking Lebanon backwards and dragging it into an absurd war," a statement said, adding that it would give an "armed response to any armed action".

"The army command has been trying for several months to work firmly, determinedly and patiently to prevent Lebanon being turned into a battlefield for regional conflicts and to prevent any spillover of the events in Syria," it said.

"But in recent days, some groups have seemed determined to stoke security tensions... against the backdrop of the political divisions in Lebanon over military developments in Syria."

It was the strongest statement from the Lebanese army since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule erupted in March 2011.

It came after the public intervention of Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement alongside Assad's troops in the battle for the border town of Qusayr which culminated in its recapture on Wednesday and deepened political divisions.

Sunni communities in Lebanon have been sending arms and fighters to the mainly Sunni rebels inside Syria.

One person was killed and seven wounded in a clash in the heart of Lebanon's second-largest city Tripoli on Thursday in the latest in a spate of deadly violence between Lebanese supporters and opponents of the Damascus regime.

Syria army prepares for Aleppo battle: security source
Damascus (AFP) June 09, 2013 - Syria's army prepared Sunday to launch an assault on Aleppo aimed at driving rebels out of the northern city and surrounding province, a security source told AFP.

The preparations came five days after the army and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah seized Qusayr in centre-west Syria, a year after the strategic region had fallen into rebel hands.

"It is likely the battle for Aleppo will start in the coming hours or days, and its aim is to reclaim the towns and villages (under rebel control) in the province," the source said on condition of anonymity.

"The Syrian Arab army is ready to carry out its mission in this province," the source said, without giving further details.

Analysts say its success in Qusayr has given the army the confidence to try to suppress the insurgency elsewhere in the strife-torn country.

Pro-regime daily Al-Watan said Sunday the army has "started to deploy at a large scale in Aleppo province, in preparation for a battle that will be fought in the city and its outskirts".

Rebels in July 2012 launched a massive assault on Aleppo, once Syria's commercial hub. The city has suffered daily regime bombardment and clashes pitting insurgents against troops.

Al-Watan also said "the Syrian army will take advantage of its experience in Qusayr and Eastern Ghouta (near Damascus) to advance in the (central) province of Hama and Homs" nearby.

"The consequences of the battle for Qusayr will... map out the contours of Syria's political future," the daily added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Friday that the regime was deploying "thousands of soldiers" in the Aleppo region, who aimed to recapture rebel positions and to cut off their weapons supply routes from Turkey.

The Britain-based monitoring group also said Hezbollah had sent "dozens of its cadres to train hundreds of Syrian Shiites in combat".

President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite community is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, while the majority of rebels are Sunnis.

Activists in Homs, where an army siege of rebel-held areas entered its second year on Sunday, said the city may be next in line for army operations.

"Qusayr was the regime's main focus in the province. Now, we fear they may shift their attention to Homs city," said Yazan, a Homs-based activist who spoke to AFP via the Internet.


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