The Syrian conflict spread in earnest to Lebanon Monday, March 18, when the Syria Air Force carried out bombing runs over Syrian rebel jumping-off bases inside Lebanon that are used for their attacks on government forces.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the warplanes also bombed Lebanese border valleys used for smuggling men and arms into Syria.
The targets, between one and five kilometers inside Lebanon, were the town of Arsal, where many of the Sunni Muslim inhabitants support the Syrian rebellion, and the outskirts of the towns of Khirbet Younin and Wadi al-Khayl in Arsal’s barren mountains. No casualties were reported.
DEBKAfile can disclose exclusively that Saturday, March 16, Syrian ruler Bashar Assad sent an ultimatum to Lebanese President Michel Sleiman through intelligence channels consisting of three stipulations:
1. Sack Lebanese army chief Gen. Jean Kahwaji without delay. Assad accused the general of refusing to deploy the Lebanese army for cracking down on Syrian rebel bases of operation in Lebanon and so stemming the flow of rebel strength into the embattled country.
2. The Lebanese president, himself a former army chief, was required to take responsibility for army action to purge the Lebanese border region of rebel forces.
3. President Sleiman was given 48 hours to order the Lebanese army into operation against the Syrian rebels. When this did not happen, Assad made good on his threat. As soon as his ultimatum expired Monday afternoon, he sent his air force into action across the border into Lebanon.
DEBKAfile’s military sources estimate that the air strike Monday was not a one-off event. Lebanon is probably in for expanding Syria air operations against its territory in the coming days.