BEIRUT (AP) — Shells fired from inside Syria killed two Lebanese civilians on Saturday and injured 10 others, security officials said, in the latest incident of violence spilling across the border.
One woman was killed when a shell hit her home in the Wadi Khalid area of northeast Lebanon, also injuring five others. Later, another shell hit the nearby village of al-Hisheh, killing an 8-year-old boy and injuring his father and four other children.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity under police rules.
Nearly 16 months of bloodshed in Syria have raised fears that the unrest will cross over into Lebanon, which has extensive sectarian and political ties to its eastern neighbor. There have been several past incidents of cross-border shelling, as well as deadly clashes between Lebanese factions that sympathize with the different sides in Syria’s conflict.
In Syria, activists struggling to topple the regime of President Bashar Assad reported fierce government offensives to try to retake rebellious areas outside of the northern city of Aleppo and near the capital Damascus.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on an activist network inside Syria, called the shelling of a number of villages in Aleppo province “the most violent” since the army launched a recent campaign to retake control of the area.
The group said that rebels in the area had killed many regime soldiers in recent months. It did not provide casualties for the recent fighting.
World powers have failed to stop Syria’s violence, which activists say has killed more than 14,000 people since March, 2011, when protesters first took to the streets to call for political reform.
The conflict has since turned into an armed insurgency with scores of rebel groups across the country regularly clashing with regime forces and attacking their convoys.
Despite mounting international condemnation, Assad’s regime has largely held together. On Saturday, however, France announced the defection of Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, an Assad confidant and son of a former defense minister who helped ease Assad into power.
Tlass is the highest ranking official to abandon the regime so far, and Western powers and anti-regime activists hoped his departure would encourage others to leave, too.
News of the defection largely overshadowed an international conference of the U.S., its European and Arab partners, and members of Syria’s fractured opposition in Paris on Saturday.
The so-called “Friends of Syria” said they would provide means for the opposition in Syria to better communicate among themselves and with the outside world and increase humanitarian aid.
They also called on the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution that would force the regime to comply with two peace plans that have been largely ignored by the regime and those seeking to topple it.
Syrian allies Russia and China would likely veto any resolution seen as too critical of the Syrian government, as they have in the past.