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8 killed in Syrian crackdown near Lebanon border

Syrian troops raid homes in Tall Kalakh and open fire on residents fleeing to Lebanon, leaving eight dead and five wounded. Lebanon sends troop reinforcements to its border with Syria.

May 16, 2011|By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Beirut — Syrian security forces Sunday stormed homes in the town of Tall Kalakh and fired on people at a nearby Lebanese border crossing as they tried to flee the country's violent crackdown, killing at least eight people and wounding five, news agencies and activists reported.

The border incident marks the first time the violence in Syria has spilled into Lebanon, which has for decades been under the political sway of its larger and more powerful neighbor. A Lebanese soldier was among the injured and the army dispatched reinforcements to its borders with Syria.

Lebanon also saw violence on its southern border, as Palestinian protesters marked the annual Day of Nakba, or "catastrophe," mourning the displacement of Palestinians with the establishment of Israel. At least 10 people died in clashes there, and some suspect the Syrian leadership is seeking ways to turn regional attention from its brutality against protesters by creating international crises.


FOR THE RECORD:
The subheadline on an earlier online version of this article misspelled Tall Kalakh as Tall Tekalakh.

Hundreds of Syrians have fled to Lebanon, where many have family ties. A recent upsurge of violence in Talkalakh has sent residents scurrying to the border crossing near the Lebanese town of Wadi Khaled. Some have arrived with gunshot wounds.

An anti-Syrian Lebanese television station reported that Syria had asked authorities in Beirut to bar the entry of anyone escaping the protests. According to witness accounts collected by activists, Syrian troops bombarded several neighborhoods in Tall Kalakh, a mostly Sunni town besieged by the security forces, which are dominated by Alawites, a Shiite sect.

According to activists, armed pro-government Alawite militiamen called shabiha stormed homes while soldiers blocked ambulances from taking the wounded to hospitals. The accounts could not be independently confirmed because international news media are barred from Syria.

Elsewhere in Syria, security forces dumped the body of an activist, which bore signs of torture, in front of the city hall of Moadamyeh, a suburb of Damascus. Riad Saif, a former lawmaker and prominent opposition activist, had been released on bail after being detained on unspecified charges.

Despite the crackdown by the government of President Bashar Assad, small protests broke out in Damascus' Dariya suburb, in sections of the third-largest city, Homs, and in Jizah, near the tinderbox southern city of Dara, where the uprising began two months ago, according to amateur video posted on the Internet.

daragahi@latimes.com

Special correspondent Roula Hajjar contributed to this report.

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