Middle East

Fresh Syria Violence Kills 4, Wounds 2 Lebanese

Nov. 29, 2011: Italian U.N. peacekeeper soldiers, foreground, and Lebanese army forces, background, patrol an area where rockets were fired from south Lebanon into north Israel, near the village of Ain Ebel, south of Lebanon.

Nov. 29, 2011: Italian U.N. peacekeeper soldiers, foreground, and Lebanese army forces, background, patrol an area where rockets were fired from south Lebanon into north Israel, near the village of Ain Ebel, south of Lebanon.  (AP2011)

BEIRUT -- Hours of intense shooting and clashes across Syria killed at least four people Friday and wounded dozens more -- including an 11-year-old girl who was struck by stray bullets that whizzed across the border into Lebanon, activists and security officials said.

The most serious violence appeared to be in the Syrian town of Talkalakh, where witnesses reported more than six hours of explosions and gunfire starting at 3 a.m. The town is within walking distance from Lebanon, and at least two people were struck by bullets on the Lebanese side.

The girl and a 40-year-old man were hospitalized after being struck by bullets that were fired from the Syrian town of Talkalakh on Friday, Lebanese security officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Witnesses said the violence started before dawn.

"We were hearing strong explosions and the crack of heavy mechinegun fire," Ahmad al-Fahel, who lives on the Lebanese side of the border, told The Associated Press by telephone. "It sounded as if they were destroying the city."

More On This...

Deadly violence also was reported elsewhere in Syria, Homs and Idlib provinces. At least four people were killed, activists said.

The reports could not be independently confirmed. The regime has sealed the country off from foreign journalists and prevented independent reporting.

Syria is trying to crush an 8-month-old revolt challenging President Bashar Assad's autocratic rule, but the mounting death toll has led to broad condemnation. There also have been growing concerns that violence could lead to a wider regional conflagration.

Reports say, Russia has delivered anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria days after a United Nations commission of inquiry called for an arms embargo on Damascus, Reuters reports.

"This weapon allows coverage of the entire coastline of Syria from possible attack from the sea," Interfax quoted the source as saying.

The U.N.'s top human rights official said this week that Syria is in a state of civil war and more than 4,000 people have been killed since mid-March.

The violence has led to several rounds of sanctions, a key tool used by the international community to exert pressure on the Assad's regime. The measures include travel bans and asset freezes.

Moscow has spoken out against further sanctions imposed by Western and Arab League states, defending its right to sell Syria weapons--tens of millions of dollars worth last year, Reuters reports.

"The contract was completely fulfilled, almost ahead of time," Interfax cited the source as saying of the deal, estimated at $300 million. The source did not say when the deliveries had taken place.

The EU's latest sanctions, which were announced Thursday, target 12 people and 11 companies. They add to a long list of regime figures previously sanctioned by the EU, including Assad, his top associates, and high-ranking security officials.

The identities of those on the new list were made public Friday in the EU's official journal. They include the ministers of finance and the economy, as well as army officers.

Also on the list are the pro-government Cham Press TV and Al-Watan newspaper, as well as a research center that the EU says provides support to the Syria military "for the acquisition of equipment used directly for the surveillance and repression of demonstrators."

Three oil companies, including the Syria Trading Oil Company, which is responsible for oil exports in Syria, also were listed. The EU statement said the three oil companies provide financial support to the regime.

The sanctions are punishing Syria's ailing economy -- a dangerous development for Damascus because the prosperous merchant classes are key to propping up the regime.

Syrian business leaders have long traded political freedoms for economic privileges. The sanctions, along with increasing calls by the opposition for general nationwide strikes, could sap their resolve.

Meanwhile, Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said fresh reports from the country reinforced the need for the Security Council to submit the situation in Syria to the Hague-based International Criminal Court.

"In light of the manifest failure of the Syrian authorities to protect their citizens, the international community needs to take urgent and effective measures to protect the Syrian people," Pillay told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

A draft resolution backed by African, European, Asian, Arab and American members of the 47-nation rights council calls for the establishment of a special investigator on Syria, but leaves open the issue of whether the Security Council, the U.N.'s most powerful arm, should refer the country to the ICC.

Until recently, most of the bloodshed in Syria was caused by security forces firing on mainly peaceful protesters. There have been growing reports of army defectors and armed civilians fighting Assad's forces -- a development that some say plays into the regime's hands by giving government troops a pretext to crack down with overwhelming force.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.