BEIRUT, Lebanon – Clashes between Lebanese troops and Syrian-backed Palestinian guerrillas Wednesday near the border with Syria seriously wounded at least one soldier and one guerrilla, security officials said.
The clashes, one of a series along the border in the last year, came as the
U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution pressing Syria to establish diplomatic relations and set its border with Lebanon, which the Security Council said would be “a significant step” toward ensuring Beirut’s sovereignty.
The resolution, co-sponsored by the United States, France and Britain, was approved by a vote of 13-0, with Russia and China abstaining. Moscow and Beijing have argued that the resolution is not needed and would constitute U.N. interference in bilateral Lebanese-Syrian relations.
Lebanese officials said the clashes between Lebanon’s army and guerrillas of the
Fatah Uprising group erupted in Wadi al-Aswad, a mountainous area less than two miles from the Syrian border.
The military command said fighting erupted after an army patrol in the Aita al-Fakhar-Yanta area came under fire from armed Palestinians at a newly established position.
The patrol returned fire and was reinforced by additional troops, the military said.
The army said a soldier was seriously wounded in the exchange of fire and that it would launch an investigation to apprehend the culprits.
A hospital official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to give statements to the press, said the soldier had been hit in the head by a bullet.
Abu Fadi Hamadi, an official of the Fatah Uprising group, said a Palestinian guerrilla was also wounded in the clashes, adding that his organization was in contact with the Lebanese army to defuse tension.
“The Lebanese army is not our enemy. The incident has been overcome in a brotherly spirit,” Hamadi said. “No one has an interest to disturb security.”
Residents in the nearby Lebanese border village of Yanta said there were injuries among the guerrillas.
Soldiers barred media from approaching the area, which is used as a base by the Fatah Uprising group and other pro-Syrian radical Palestinian factions. Journalists in a nearby village reported seeing a heavy military presence, more than 200 soldiers backed by tanks, armored personnel carriers and trucks, around the scene of the fighting.
Tension has increased along the Lebanese-Syrian border since Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon in April 2005, ending a 29-year military presence, amid the crisis that followed last year’s assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Anti-Syrian groups have accused Syria of responsibility for Hariri’s killing, a charge Damascus has repeatedly denied.
Fatah Uprising broke with the mainstream Palestinian Fatah faction in 1983 and is led by Col. Saeed Moussa, better known as Abu Moussa, who is based in Syria.
In recent weeks, the Lebanese have alleged that pro-Syrian Palestinian guerrillas have brought weapons into this country with the aim of causing disturbances. The Palestinians have denied the accusations.
The Lebanese government in March gave Palestinian guerrillas six months to remove gunmen and weapons outside the 12 Palestinian refugee camps and take charge of security inside the shantytowns where some 350,000 refugees live. Anti-Syrians, who dominate the government, say the militant guerrillas backed by Syria are doing Damascus’ bidding.