BEIRUT — Rockets rained down Friday on villages throughout Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley, with Sunni and Shiite villages targeted in one of the worst outbreaks of sectarian violence in months as the division between the two communities over the civil war in Syria deepens.
Residents of Arsal, a predominately Sunni border town that staunchly supports the Syrian rebellion, reported that rockets fired from a nearby Shiite Muslim enclave controlled by Hezbollah had struck the center of the city, killing at least eight people and wounding 20. The Lebanese National News Agency quoted anonymous officials saying that the rockets had been fired from neighboring Syria, but residents of Arsal were adamant that the munitions had originated with Hezbollah, which also operates inside Syria in defense of its ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The rocket fire came one day after the Nusra Front, a Syrian rebel group with ties to al-Qaida, claimed a suicide car bombing that killed three people in Hermel, a Shiite-controlled town. Friday, rockets struck several nearby Shiite villages causing material damage but no casualties.
Hezbollah has justified its military support for Assad by citing the frequent shelling of Shiite villages on both sides of the border, saying it needs to protect Shiites from Sunni rebels tied to al-Qaida.
“Well, now we have a civil war,” remarked Abu Rami, a former Christian militiaman in Beirut as he heard the news on the radio.