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Rocket strike in Lebanon wounds four in Hezbollah-controlled area

BEIRUT — Two rockets crashed into southern Beirut suburbs controlled by the militant Shiite group Hezbollah on Sunday, wounding four people. The attack, the first on the group’s Beirut stronghold since the hostilities in Syria broke out two years ago, raised anxieties here that the fighting next door was beginning to revive Lebanon’s own sectarian conflicts.

Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, declared Saturday in the strongest terms yet that the group had become a major combatant in Syria, taking the side of President Bashar Assad and vowing to fight to the end to defeat the rebellion and defend Lebanon and the region from jihadist extremists.

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Some Hezbollah supporters said Sunday that they suspected Syrian rebels, who are mainly Sunni Muslims, or the Lebanese Sunni militants who support them, of mounting the rocket attack. A Hezbollah official said the attackers were part of a single “chain of terrorism” forged by Israel and stretching from Baghdad through Syria to Beirut.

But it was unclear who launched the rockets, which the Lebanese authorities said were fired from a primarily Christian and Druze area in the hills southeast of the city. No one was killed, and no group immediately claimed responsibility.

The streets of Beirut remained calm, but the attack alarmed officials in Lebanon, which has yet to fully recover from its own long civil war, even though major fighting ended in 1990. Sectarian skirmishes still periodically occur in the streets, with some of the worst violence in years breaking out last week in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. But rocket attacks are rare.

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“We hope what is happening in Syria does not move to Lebanon,” Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said.

The rockets landed in the Chiah district of Beirut’s southern suburbs and residents there said the attack would not deter the group’s followers. The rockets appeared to have caused minor damage to a car dealership and to have hit the living room of an apartment where no one was home.

“Some factions are trying to spread chaos in this part of the country,” said Samir, a young man who was inspecting the damage, but he added, quoting Nasrallah, “They are weaker than a spider’s web.”

Late Sunday night, the picture became more complicated when Lebanese news outlets reported that a missile had been fired from southern Lebanon toward northern Israel. A spokeswoman for the Israeli military said that soldiers were investigating the cause of an explosion that was heard there, but she would not speculate on its cause or origin.

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