The Lebanese army on Friday said it has arrested 11 men, including four Syrians, for weapons possession in a tense border town that has seen frequent unrest linked to the war in neighbouring Syria.
“Army units deployed in Arsal arrested on Thursday and Friday 11 people including four Syrians, and seized from their possession weapons, ammunition and military material,” the army said in a statement.
The arrests took place “in a mountainous region leading to the Lebanese-Syrian border,” and were part of “operations the army is carrying out to arrest wanted people… and to end weapons smuggling and illegal crossings” across the border.
Lebanon’s military intensified its operations in Arsal in eastern Lebanon after two soldiers, including an officer, were killed in a clash with armed men on February 1.
Also on Friday, a group of Arsal residents demonstrated near a checkpoint against the army’s measures, and troops shot into the air to disperse them, a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Lebanon has suffered a spillover of Syria’s raging war, which the UN says has left 70,000 people dead in nearly two years.
Arsal’s majority Sunni Muslim community backs the revolt against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
Northern and eastern Lebanon have been struck by frequent cross-border shelling and clashes, while the Syrian regime has told Lebanon to better control its porous border to prevent the smuggling of fighters and arms.
Lebanon was dominated politically and militarily by Syria for nearly 30 years.
The small Mediterranean country is sharply divided over the Syrian revolt, which erupted in March 2011.
Shiite movement Hezbollah and its allies back Assad’s regime, while the Sunni-led Future movement and its allies support the revolt.