Sunday, May 20, 2018

Violence in Syria spills into Lebanon

BEIRUT — Syrian forces killed at least five people when they raided a Sunni farming village Sunday, torching homes and looting shops in what activists said is a sign of worsening relations among the country's religious groups.

Tensions stemming from the 14-month-old uprising against President Bashar Assad also touched off clashes across the border in Lebanon as the revolt threatened to morph into a broader conflict.

The relentless violence further undermines a U.N.-backed peace plan designed to bring an end to Syria's deadly crisis. A cease-fire that was supposed to begin April 12 has had only a limited effect, throwing into doubt the rest of the plan that calls for talks between Assad's regime and those seeking to end his rule.

The raid against the impoverished village of al-Tamana, about 35 miles northwest of the city of Hama, began late Saturday and continued through the early hours on Sunday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said five people were killed in the raid and government troops were setting fire to homes.

An amateur video posted online Sunday showed men carrying the dead body of a woman from a house. A second video showed men in a mosque praying over five coffins, three of them open with flowers piled on bodies wrapped in white cloth.

The area, a plain of farmland along the Orontes River, is dotted with villages of Christians, Sunni Muslims and Alawites, the offshoot sect of Shiite Islam to which Assad belongs.

The fighting highlights how easily trouble in Syria can raise tensions in neighboring Lebanon, with which it shares a complex web of political and sectarian ties and rivalries.

Lebanon's national news agency NNA said one soldier was killed by a sniper in the city early Sunday. Another man was found dead on the side of a road while a third died after a shell landed in a neighborhood.

An Associated Press reporter in Tripoli said the Lebanese army sent reinforcements to the city, but that intermittent clashes continued Sunday with gunmen shooting at each other with automatic rifles. Heavier weapons, like rocket-propelled grenades, have also been fired.

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