Lebanese gunmen killed by Syrian army: sources

BEIRUT Fri Nov 30, 2012 12:33pm EST

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - At least 12 Lebanese gunmen were killed in a Syrian army ambush in the central Syrian province of Homs, a security source and people close the men's families said on Friday, a sign that Lebanon is getting further tangled in Syria's war.

The sources said the Lebanese men were killed near the town of Tel Kalakh and were from northern areas of Lebanon which are sympathetic to the majority Sunni-led revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 30 Lebanese fighters had gone missing and a second security source said they were accompanied by nine Syrians as well as Libyans, Egyptians and Yemenis.

The 20-month-old crisis in Syria, which started with peaceful protests but descended into a civil war with sectarian undertones, has deepened divisions in Lebanon.

Lebanon's Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah sided with Assad - whose Alawite sect is close to Shi'ite Islam - and clashed with Sunni fighters in the southern city of Sidon this month. There have also been intermittent clashes between Lebanese Alawite and Sunni residents in the port city of Tripoli.

The small country is still rebuilding after its own 15-year civil war.

Syrian troops were garrisoned in Lebanon until 2005 when anti-Syrian demonstrators took to the streets, accusing Damascus of assassinating former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, a Sunni.

(Reporting by Oliver Holmes; Additional reporting by Nazih Siddiq in Tripoli, Lebanon; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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