Syrian rebels claim attack on Shias in Lebanon

The civil war in Syria has inflamed tensions in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley near the border

A Syrian rebel unit has claimed responsibility in a video for killing four Shia men in Lebanon this week as Syria's civil war spills into its smaller, religiously divided neighbour.

In the video, posted today by a group calling itself the "Syrian Mujahideen Unit", a fighter says his brigade killed the four men as they were trying to enter


He said they were members of Hizbullah, the Lebanese Shia militant group that has actively helped Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in his fight against a mostly Sunni Muslim revolt.


Another video posted by the same group showed the four men’s identification cards as well as two assault rifles and two pistols the Syrian rebels say they found on the men.

The civil war in Syria has inflamed tensions in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley near the border, where Sunnis who support the Syrian rebels live close to Shias who back Assad.

Rockets fired from areas believed to be controlled by Syrian rebels have targeted the Shia town of Hermel in the past, while a Syrian helicopter has crossed into Lebanon and fired at buildings in Sunni border areas.

Some Lebanese Sunnis have gone to fight alongside rebels in Syria, where anti-Assad protests erupted in March 2011 and met a violent response.

An armed conflict then developed in which the United Nations says 93,000 people have been killed and 1.6 million refugees have fled to neighbouring countries.

In Syria today, rebels attacked a main highway in northern Syria , opposition groups said, to try to choke off a major supply line for Assad’s forces in the region. Assad’s troops, backed by battle-hardened Lebanese Hizbullah fighters and emboldened by their capture of a strategic border town, are starting an offensive to regain the rebel-dominated north and remaining rebel strongholds around Damascus.

The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels had seized an army checkpoint on the Ariha-Latakia stretch of an international highway that goes through Syria's biggest city, Aleppo, to the Turkish border. Other rebel groups said opposition forces had seized three checkpoints and needed to capture three more to cut off army access to the M5 highway.

"This is a very important battle in our move to put a stranglehold on regime supply lines from its stronghold on the coast into the north, particularly to Idlib city, which is one of the regime's last footholds in Idlib province," said Mohammed Fizo, a rebel spokesman speaking by Skype.

“The regime is responding by shelling the highway and sending fighter jets to bomb nearby villages.”

Assad’s forces aim to retake Aleppo, where they have been mired in a bloody stalemate with rebels for nearly a year.

World powers remain at odds about how to handle the Syrian crisis, which dominated the Group of Eight conference this week but led to no political breakthroughs. The United States wants Assad removed and has promised to arm the rebels, while Russia, the Syrian leader's main arms supplier, opposes these policies.