Syrian rebels kill 10, capture others in Lebanon

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Syrian rebels kill 10, capture others in Lebanon
Lebanese army reinforcements arrive to the outskirts of Arsal, a predominantly Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. Thousands of Lebanese civilians and Syrian refugees packed cars and pickup trucks Monday, fleeing an eastern border town that was overrun by militants from neighboring Syria as Lebanese troops fight to liberate the area. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Lebanese army soldiers stand guard near military vehicles and armored personnel carriers at an entrance to Arsal, a predominantly Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. Thousands of Lebanese civilians and Syrian refugees packed cars and pickup trucks Monday, fleeing an eastern border town that was overrun by militants from neighboring Syria as Lebanese troops fight to liberate the area. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Gunmen drive away with about a dozen men, two in camouflage police uniforms, in Arsal, a Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Saturday, Aug 2, 2014. Rebels fighting in Syria’s civil war crossed into Lebanon and raided a border town Saturday, killing and capturing security force members in the most serious incursion into the tiny country during its neighbor’s 3-year-old conflict. (AP Photo)
Lebanese army reinforcements arrive at the entrance of Arsal, a predominantly Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. Thousands of Lebanese civilians and Syrian refugees packed cars and pickup trucks Monday, fleeing an eastern border town that was overrun by militants from neighboring Syria as Lebanese troops fight to liberate the area. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
A Lebanese army soldier stands guard on the outskirts of Arsal, a predominantly Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. Thousands of Lebanese civilians and Syrian refugees packed cars and pickup trucks Monday, fleeing an eastern border town that was overrun by militants from neighboring Syria as Lebanese troops fight to liberate the area. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
A Lebanese army soldier walks past military vehicles and armored personnel carriers on the outskirts of Arsal, a predominantly Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. Thousands of Lebanese civilians and Syrian refugees packed cars and pickup trucks Monday, fleeing an eastern border town that was overrun by militants from neighboring Syria as Lebanese troops fight to liberate the area. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Lebanese army soldiers prepare to deploy toward Arsal, a predominantly Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. Thousands of Lebanese civilians and Syrian refugees packed cars and pickup trucks Monday, fleeing an eastern border town that was overrun by militants from neighboring Syria as Lebanese troops fight to liberate the area. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Smoke billows from Arsal, a Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Saturday, Aug 2, 2014. Rebels fighting in Syria’s civil war crossed into Lebanon and raided a border town Saturday, killing and capturing security force members in the most serious incursion into the tiny country during its neighbor’s 3-year-old conflict. (AP Photo)
Smoke billows from the Lebanese town of Arsal, a Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Saturday, Aug 2, 2014. Rebels fighting in Syria’s civil war crossed into Lebanon and raided a border town Saturday, killing and capturing security force members in the most serious incursion into the tiny country during its neighbor’s 3-year-old conflict. (AP Photo)
Gunmen drive away with about a dozen men, two in camouflage police uniforms, in Arsal, a Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, Saturday, Aug 2, 2014. Rebels fighting in Syria’s civil war crossed into Lebanon and raided a border town Saturday, killing and capturing security force members in the most serious incursion into the tiny country during its neighbor’s 3-year-old conflict. (AP Photo)
This Sunday July 6, 2014 photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows weapons that SANA says were captured by Syrian government forces in Kafr Saghir, outside Aleppo, Northern Syria. Syrian troops advanced inside and near northern Aleppo on Monday in what appears to be an attempt to lay siege to rebel-held parts of the country's largest city, activist said Monday. (AP Photo/SANA)
This Sunday July 6, 2014 photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows weapons that SANA says were captured by Syrian government forces in Kafr Saghir, outside Aleppo, Northern Syria. Syrian troops advanced inside and near northern Aleppo on Monday in what appears to be an attempt to lay siege to rebel-held parts of the country's largest city, activist said Monday. (AP Photo/SANA)
This photo provided by the anti-government activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows a Syrian man carrying a wounded girl following a Syrian government airstrike at Karm al-Jabal area in Aleppo, Syria, Thursday, June 26, 2014. Syrian warplanes struck the area in the northern province of Aleppo, killing and wounding dozens of people, activists said. (AP Photo/Syrian Observatory for Human Rights)
This photo taken on Wednesday, June 25, 2014, and provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center (AMC), which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrians inspecting the rubble of a damaged houses following a Syrian government airstrike in Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center AMC)
This photo provided by the anti-government activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrians inspect an area amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following a Syrian government airstrike at Karm al-Jabal area in Aleppo, Syria, Thursday, June 26, 2014. Syrian warplanes struck the area in the northern province of Aleppo killing and wounding dozens of people, activists said. (AP Photo/Syrian Observatory for Human Rights)
FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012 file photo, Syrian rebel fighter Tawfiq Hassan, 23, a former butcher, poses for a picture, after returning from fighting against Syrian army forces in Aleppo, at a rebel headquarters in Marea on the outskirts of Aleppo city, Syria. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf petro-powerhouses encouraged a flow of cash to Sunni rebels in Syria for years. But now they face a worrying blowback as an al-Qaida breakaway group that benefited from some of the funding storms across a wide swath of Iraq. Gulf nations fear its extremism could be a threat to them as well. But the tangle of rivalries in the region is complex: Saudi Arabia and its allies firmly oppose any U.S. military action to stop the Islamic State’s advance in Iraq because they don’t want to boost its Shiite-led prime minister or his ally, Iran. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, June 12, 2014 file photo, Refugees fleeing from Mosul head to the self-ruled northern Kurdish region in Irbil, Iraq, 350 kilometers (217 miles) north of Baghdad. The militants' capture of Iraq’s cities of Mosul and Tikrit makes their dream of a new Islamic state look more realistic. It already controlled a swath of eastern Syria along the Euphrates River, with a spottier presence extending further west nearly to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. In Raqqa, the biggest city it holds in Syria, it imposes taxes, rebuilds bridges and enforces the law _ its strict version of Shariah. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - This still image from black and white gun camera video made by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, shows what the ministry says are airstrikes on fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in an area near Mosul in Nineveh province, Iraq. The militants' capture of Iraq’s cities of Mosul and Tikrit makes their dream of a new Islamic state look more realistic. It already controlled a swath of eastern Syria along the Euphrates River, with a spottier presence extending further west nearly to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. In Raqqa, the biggest city it holds in Syria, it imposes taxes, rebuilds bridges and enforces the law _ its strict version of Shariah. (AP Photo/Iraqi Ministry of Defense)
This photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center (AMC), which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian citizens carrying a man who was injured by a government forces airstrike, in Aleppo, Syria. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sharply criticized Syria's presidential vote this week as "a great big zero," and said it can't be considered fair "because you can't have an election where millions of your people don't even have an ability to vote."(AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center, AMC)
This photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center (AMC), which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows a Syrian man looking at a damaged pickup which was carrying house belongings on a street that attacked by a government forces airstrike, in Aleppo, Syria. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sharply criticized Syria's presidential vote this week as "a great big zero," and said it can't be considered fair "because you can't have an election where millions of your people don't even have an ability to vote."(AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center, AMC)
This photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center (AMC), which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Free Syrian Army fighters running at one of the front lines in the town of Sheikh Najjar, in Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday June 10, 2014. Fighting in eastern Syria between Islamic rebel brigades and an al-Qaida splinter group has killed more than 630 people and uprooted at least 130,000 since the end of April, an activist group said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center, AMC)
This photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center (AMC), which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows a Free Syrian Army fighter as he prepares a locally made missile to be fired against Syrian government forces, in Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday June 10, 2014. Fighting in eastern Syria between Islamic rebel brigades and an al-Qaida splinter group has killed more than 630 people and uprooted at least 130,000 since the end of April, an activist group said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center, AMC)
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By DIAA HADID

BEIRUT (AP) - Syrian rebels killed 10 Lebanese troops and likely captured over a dozen more in an ongoing raid on a Lebanese border town, the country's military chief said, the most serious spillover of violence yet into the tiny country from its neighbor's civil war.

The capture raised fears Lebanon could become further entangled in the Syrian civil war and could worsen already-brewing sectarian tensions.

"What happened today is more serious than what some people imagine," Lebanon's army chief, Gen. Jean Kahwaji, told journalists.

The fighting began Saturday as Syrian rebels made a cross-border raid into the eastern Lebanese border town of Arsal, some 90 kilometers (55 miles) from the capital, Beirut. The clashes continued into Sunday, with local television footage showing wailing ambulances racing into town and soldiers standing guard just outside its limits.

The Lebanese military sealed off the area, preventing reporters from approaching the town; the state news agency said fighting Sunday focused around an army barracks in the town's center.

The fate of tens of thousands of residents and Syrian refugees living in Arsal was unclear. Local television stations showed carloads of residents fleeing the area.

Saturday's raid began hours after the army said troops detained Syrian citizen Imad Ahmad Jomaa, who identified himself as a member of the Nusra Front. The state-run National News Agency said Jomaa was detained as he was being brought to a hospital in Lebanon after being wounded while fighting Syrian troops.

The Nusra Front is one of the most powerful groups fighting to overthrow the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The rebels began the attack by seizing three security compounds in Arsal, Kahwaji said. They were still in control of one compound Sunday, he said.

The army chief said the fighters belonged to extremist Sunni groups, like the Nusra Front. He said the fighting had killed 10 soldiers, while 13 others were missing.

"They may be prisoners of terrorist groups," he said.

A video uploaded to an account associated with the Nusra Front showed over a dozen captured Lebanese soldiers and police officers. In the video, the men announced their defections from the Lebanese army and the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, whose forces are fighting in Syria in support of Assad.

The video of the men's capture appeared authentic and corresponded with Associated Press reporting on the attack in Arsal. But the men appeared uncomfortable as they repeated similar statements as many refused to look at the camera.

Syria's civil war has spilled over into Lebanon on multiple occasions, and inflamed sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shiites, leaving scores dead. However, previous rebel raids never went so deeply into Lebanese territory. Rebels also directly challenged Lebanese security forces for the first time in their assault on Arsal.

Lebanon's Sunni and Shiite communities have lined up on opposing side of Syria's civil war. Sunnis, including those in Arsal, broadly support the Sunni rebels fighting against Assad. Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees live in and around Arsal and rebels sometimes use the town as a base. Shiites typically back Assad.

Kahwaji said the future security problems caused by Syria's war threatened Lebanon, particularly the existence of extremists among the over 1 million Syrian refugees who have fled into Lebanon.

Syria's conflict began in March 2011 as a popular uprising against Assad's rule, but turned into an insurgency after government forces violently cracked down on demonstrators. It has since become civil war with sectarian overtones. Over 170,000 people, mostly combatants, have been killed in Syria in more than three years of fighting, activists say.

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