Last Updated: Sat Jul 07, 2012 13:22 pm (KSA) 10:22 am (GMT)

Three women killed as Syrian artillery strikes north Lebanon

Syrian government forces bombarded a string of towns in Aleppo province on Saturday, a day after global powers gathered in yet another effort to chart a political end to the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. (Reuters)
Syrian government forces bombarded a string of towns in Aleppo province on Saturday, a day after global powers gathered in yet another effort to chart a political end to the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. (Reuters)

Three women were killed and nine people wounded in northern Lebanon on Saturday by rocket fire from Syrian territory and gun battles, a Lebanese security official told AFP.

It was the deadliest incident in the Lebanon-Syria border area since the Syrian revolt broke out nearly 16 months ago.

“Nadia al-Owaichi, 19, was killed in the early morning when a rocket landed on her house in the border region of Wadi Khaled,” the security source said, adding that “the rocket came from Syrian territory.”

“Several hours after, two Bedouin women were killed when shells landed on their tents in the same area,” according to the source.

Nine others were injured, including three children, by falling rockets and exchanges of gunfire, he added.

A local official told AFP on condition of anonymity that clashes broke out at dawn between the Syrian army and gunmen on the Lebanese side.

The Lebanese National News Agency reported that a number of children were wounded and several homes hit when more than 20 shells landed on the area.

Residents fled from several villages in Wadi Khaled “in a state of panic and fear,” the news agency added.

On Monday, a rocket fired from Lebanon wounded two Syrian border police, triggering retaliatory gunfire from Syrian forces.

The July 2 incident was the first time Lebanon's General Security agency reported firing from Lebanon into Syrian territory.

Syrian troops have carried out a number of deadly cross-border raids into Lebanon since the outbreak of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad's rule in March last year, sparking fears of a spillover of the conflict.

The Wadi Khaled region, about 185 kilometers (115 miles) from Beirut, encompasses areas of southern Syria and northern Lebanon and has been the site of frequent illegal border crossings.


Bombings in Aleppo

Meanwhile inside Syria, government forces bombarded a string of towns in Aleppo province on Saturday, a day after global powers gathered in yet another effort to chart a political end to the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.

“Regime forces are attempting to regain control over this region, where they suffered heavy casualties over the past months to rebels,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that the bombardment killed one civilian and wounded dozens in the town of Qabtan al-Jabal.

Shelling also continued in the central city of Homs, under bombardment by the army for more than a month.

The Observatory said 93 people, mostly civilians, were killed across Syria on Friday as protesters took to the streets in several provinces after being urged to call for a “People’s liberation war.”

On Friday, some 100 nations and organizations meeting in Paris called on the U.N. Security Council to adopt a transition plan for Syria backed by economic sanctions if the regime refuses to comply.

Concretely, they asked the council to urgently adopt a six-point peace plan drawn up by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan under the U.N. Charter’s Chapter VII.

But the final statement stressed that any immediate action under Article 41 provided only for non-military intervention.

The Annan plan, which insists on a cessation of violence by all sides, has made little headway and activists say an estimated 16,500 people have now died since the uprising began in March last year.

“We should go back and ask for a resolution in the Security Council that imposes real and immediate consequences for non-compliance, including sanctions,” ranging from economic measures to military force, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

In some of her toughest comments yet, Clinton said she thought China and long-time Syrian ally Russia did “not believe they are paying any price at all for standing up on behalf of the regime”.

China rebuffed Clinton’s accusation, saying any attempt to “slander” China was doomed to fail.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said Clinton’s comments were “totally unacceptable.”

“On the Syria problem, China’s fair and constructive stance and its contributions toward diplomatic efforts have attained the wide understanding and support of relevant parties in the international community,” Liu said in a statement on the ministry’s website.


Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov “categorically” rejected “the formulation that Russia supports Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the situation that has developed in Syria”.

Although Moscow did not attend the meeting, a diplomatic source insisted that “Russian political and security circles are changing their position”.

Defection

The meeting took place as news emerged that a general from Assad’s most trusted inner circle had defected in what would be a major blow to the regime as it battles the opposition.

General Munaf Tlass, a boyhood friend of Assad, was a general in the elite Republican Guard charged with protecting the regime. He is the son of former defense minister Mustafa Tlass, a close friend of Assad’s late father and predecessor, Hafez.

A source close to the regime said he was on his way to Paris to join his wife and his sister, Nahed Ojjeh, widow of Saudi millionaire arms dealer Akram Ojjeh.

Tlass was sidelined by the regime more than a year ago, after he was deemed unreliable.

His defection comes two weeks after a colonel in the air force won political asylum after landing his MiG-21 fighter jet in neighbouring Jordan.

In other developments, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon called on Friday for scaling down an observer mission in Syria to refocus on political efforts to end the bloodshed.

He said the observers’ mandate should remain unchanged, though with a “reduced military observer component,” and the focus shifting from monitoring a ceasefire that has never taken hold toward a more political role.

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