Bashar al-Assad Effect: Lebanese Hezbollah attacks in Syria draw response

Bashar al-AssadSyrian President Bashar al-Assad (Reuters)

In Shiite towns and villages near the border with Syria, residents who support Hezbollah are bearing the brunt of the militant Lebanese group's growing involvement in the Syrian civil war.

Shells fired by Syria's overwhelmingly Sunni rebels regularly fall on the town, killing civilians, scaring off visitors and keeping schools and many shops shuttered.

Many believe the shelling is a message from Sunni extremists that there would be a price to pay for supporting the Shiite Muslim group.

This week, 20-year-old Loulou Awad was the latest victim of growing sectarian hatred on both sides of the border.

It was around sunset Monday when the first rocket from Syria slammed into her hometown of Hermel, a predominantly Shiite area in Lebanon's northeastern corner. The hotel management student ran to the roof of her uncle's house across the street from her parents' apartment to see the damage.

Fifteen minutes later, the second rocket fell on the roof of her parents' building, spraying shrapnel everywhere, including some that struck her head.

Her father, Abdullah, and her mother, Salma, were watching the main evening news bulletin when the second rocket hit their two-story house. The electricity was cut and dust filled the rooms. With the help of a lighter, Awad helped his wife outside their damaged home and rushed to the roof across the street where he found his daughter, face down, with shrapnel wounds in the back of her head.

"I knew immediately that she was dead,'' said Awad taking a deep breath. Rocket attacks on Hermel and nearby villages have killed three and wounded 21 over the past two months, according to residents and local officials.

The attacks appear to be retaliation for Hezbollah fighters' support to President Bashar Assad's forces in battles in the central Syrian province of Homs.

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