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Lebanese killed in blast near Syrian border


The Daily Star

A Lebanese national was killed in a blast on the barren eastern mountains across the border from a besieged Syrian town which earlier this week was evacuated of wounded rebel fighters and civilians, a security source told The Daily Star Wednesday.

The body of 35-year-old Hikmat Abdul-Raouf Musa, from the Lebanese village of Maaraboun, was found at dawn on its outskirts.

The source said the blast was the result of a shell fired from an unknown location and by unknown parties. However, a separate security source told the state-run National News Agency that the blast was caused by a land mine planted near the Syrian border.

The NNA said military experts came to that conclusion after inspecting the area.

The area is known to be riddled with land mines planted during Lebanon’s 1975-90 Civil War.

However, some residents of Maaraboun, located about 13 kilometers north of the Syrian town of Zabadani, insisted the blast was caused by a shell, and called on the Lebanese state to take action.

A villager told The Daily Star that the sound of an explosion on the outskirts of Maaraboun was heard Tuesday morning and two others were heard at 3 p.m.

“One of the explosions [in the afternoon] was caused by a rocket-propelled grenade that exploded in a field owned by Ahmad al-Aaloul, causing property damage,” the villager said.

“At night we lost touch with Musa, a father of five kids. The eldest is 12.”

The villager pointed out that a search operation was launched before his body was found with shrapnel wounds.

Mohammad Musa, the victim’s brother, demanded that the state reveal the source of what he said was shelling, saying: “I want to know if the shelling was from inside or outside the border. Was it the takfiris who fired?”

Imam of the village Sheikh Ali Hasan deplored the incident.

“We want the state to take action,” he said.

Musa’s funeral was held in Maaraboun in the presence of his family members, friends and prominent local figures.

The incident comes two days after wounded Syrian rebels and civilians left Zabadani for Turkey under a local cease-fire agreement sponsored by the United Nations.

Under the deal, which was also brokered by Iran and Turkey, a convoy Monday transported 125 civilians and opposition fighters from Zabadani, which has been besieged by Hezbollah and the Syrian army since July, to Beirut’s airport, where they were then flown onward to Hatay airport in Turkey.

Simultaneously, a convoy evacuated 338 pro-government fighters and civilians from Shiite-majority Kufreya and Foua, in north Syria, to Hatay, where they were flown to Beirut Monday evening.

Rebels shelled Foua and Kufreya Tuesday, killing at least one civilian.

The cease-fire has been violated several times by both sides, but largely appears to be holding. Monday’s evacuations took place even after previous violations.

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