UPDATE 2050 GMT: A Lebanese security official says a 24-hour ceasefire between the Lebanese army and gunmen — probably from the Islamic State — began on Tuesday night in the border town of Arsal.
The official said the truce, from 7 p.m. (1600 GMT), was for a mediator to investigate the fate of 22 Lebanese soldiers missing and presumed captured since attackers entered Arsal on Saturday.
“This time will also be used to evacuate civilians who were wounded or who need help. It is like a humanitarian ceasefire,” the source said.
A Syrian activist in the town said the shelling had stopped: “There is an uneasy calm.” A cleric said the clashes had stopped but sounds of occasional bombardment could still be heard.
Sources said several Islamic State fighters, including a commander in charge of booby traps and explosives, had been killed in Arsal.
Sixteen Lebanese troops have died and 86 have been wounded. Scores of civilians in Arsal and a nearby refugee camp have been killed or injured, most by bombardment by the Lebanese military.
UPDATE 1750 GMT: Video apparently showing the Lebanese Army allowing Hezbollah convoys to pass freely through checkpoints en route to Arsal:
UPDATE 1400 GMT: The insurgent Syrian Revolution General Commission claims that 29 civilians have been killed and more than 200 refugees have been wounded in clashes in Arsal and bombardment of the nearby camp.
The SRGC says that, in addition to artillery attacks, the Lebanese army and Hezbollah positioned several snipers surrounding camps who then fired on civilians, killing and wounding some of them as Syrian helicopters hovered overhead.
The Commission further claims that three members of a reconciliation commission, including two Sunni sheikhs, were wounded late Monday night when Hezbollah members fired on their car.
More than 1,500 families have fled their tents since the beginning of the fighting. The camps are surrounded and Syrian refugees have nowhere to go. The humanitarian situation is extremely dire regarding medical supplies and provisions; several charities cited the inability to reach affected families due to the continuous bombardment and the snipers surrounding the camps. Electricity is cut off from the camps, making conditions worse.
UPDATE 1220 GMT: A Lebanese official has claimed progress to end fighting in the border town Arsal.
“A tentative agreement has been reached after negotiations, which call for the handover of three (captured) soldiers while militants would start a gradual withdrawal,” Bakr Hujeiri, the Future Movement’s representative in the town, said.
Other captured soldiers will be handed over in groups as the gunmen withdraw.
Two more Lebanese troops were killed overnight, bringing the military’s toll to 16 with 86 wounded.
Two prominent Sunni sheikhs were slightly wounded when their car came under fire shortly before midnight. A third member of the delegation seeking reconciliation suffered a serious foot injury.
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Syria’s war is now in Lebanon, with fears that the Lebanese Army has killed dozens of civilians in the bombardment of a Syrian refugee camp, as it fought gunmen in the nearby border town of Arsal.
The Lebanese bombardment set off fires in the crowded camp in the Bekaa Valley, adding to the casualties.
The Lebanese military was continuing its pursuit of gunmen — suspected to be from the jihadist Islamic State — whose attack on a checkpoint east of Arsal and storming of a police station in the town sparked a weekend of clashes. At least 14 Lebanese soldiers and six civilians died in the clashes, and more than 20 soldiers have been captured and possibly taken into Syria.
Fighting continued Monday in the town, with hundreds of Army reinforcements joining the attempt to remove the armed men. Soldiers reported that the militants were setting off explosions from captured military vehicles.
The Army claimed that it found the bodies of 50 “militants” when it moved on the town on Monday. It did not report any casualties from the camp.
However, images from the camp showed blazes in the aftermath of what appeared to be artillery strikes. Well-placed sources say that members of the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra were in the camp, but were not confronting Lebanese forces — instead they were trying to give assistance and first aid to civilians.
Thousands of families fled Arsal during a pause in fighting on Monday, but those in the camp cannot move. The Lebanese Red Cross has not been able to reach any wounded civilians.
More than one-third of the estimated 1.1 million Syrian refugees are in the Bekaa Valley.
Any casualties in the camp are unlikely to stem fighting. The Lebanese Cabinet met in an emergency session on Monday and ruled out negotiations with the gunmen in Arsal.
“There is no political solution with extremist groups who are manipulating the Arab communities under religious obscurantism and strange titles, seeking to transfer their sick acts into Lebanon,” Prime Minister Tammam Salam said in a televised statement. “Today, the only solution is the withdrawal of the gunmen from Arsal and its surroundings.”
The Syrian Foreign Ministry proclaimed its support for the military operations, saying the Assad regime “stands with the Lebanese Army and stands in solidarity with them in dealing with terrorist groups and eliminating them”.
(Featured Photo: Reuters)
LCCS: 90 Killed Across Syria on Monday
The Local Coordination Committees report 90 people killed on Monday, including 8 women and 15 children.
Of the dead, 25 were in Damascus and its suburbs, 20 in Aleppo Province, 18 in Hama Province, and 14 in Homs Province.