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Syria Mining Border With Lebanon

In what is being billed as an attempt to stop arms smuggling, Syrian authorities are mining their border with Lebanon.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 10/27/2011, 6:05 PM

Syrian troops began planting mines along a border region it shares with northern Lebanon on Thursday, a local Lebanese official told AFP.

"Officials [in Beirut -- ed.] told us the Syrians undertook the measure to prevent weapons smuggling," the local official said. "A number of Syrian soldiers were also seen deploying on their side of the border, near the Syrian villages of Heet and Buwayt," he added.

The local official added the troops began planting the mines at dawn in an area facing two Lebanese villages -- Knaysseh and Al-Hnayder. According to reports, the border is marked only by mounds of earth and has long been used to smuggle goods and arms between the two countries.

Regional proliferation experts say weapons smuggling from Lebanon to Syria has thrived since the revolt against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad began earlier this year, but not on a large scale. There appear to be no direct political links between the smugglers and Syrian dissidents seeking arms, they add.

Lebanese and Syrian nationals also reportedly use the areas to pass back and forth freely between the two countries.

The region has also seen repeated incursions by Syrian forces making lightning raids into Lebanese territory to pursue dissidents fleeing the regime in Damascus, as well as having reportedly used the fluid border region to transfer kidnapped Syrian dissidents from Lebanon back to Syria.

Ironically, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who officials in Beirut say colluded with Syrian intelligence to kidnap dissidents in Lebanon, is also reported to be heavily vested in the arms trade Damascus says it is trying to prevent.

Many of those arms, Syria says, are of Israeli origin. Some observers suggest that if this is true, they may be arms Israel provided to the Palestinian Authority under security agreements that in turn found their way into the hands of terror groups.

But tension has mounted since the revolt against Assad's regime has seen increasing numbers of organized army defectors who seek to mount a guerilla campaign, which may be forcing Damascus to prioritize curtailing the flow of arms over harassing dissidents seeking refuge in Lebanon.

The nascent armed resistance is headed by dissident Syrian Air Force General Riad Assad, who is presently in Turkey. It is believed to have roughly two battalions worth of fighters – a number that may grow as Assad’s crackdown continues unabated.

At least 3,000 have been killed in Assad's brutal crackdown since protests erupted in Syria in March.