SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

August 29, 2013

Fears of Western strike on Syria spread in Mideast

(Continued)

But with many seeing Western intervention no longer a question of if but when, there were signs of growing fears across the wider region.

At least 6,000 Syrians crossed into Lebanon in a 24-hour period through the main Masnaa crossing, including an estimated 4,000 on Wednesday, according to Lebanese security officials in the country’s Bekaa Valley near the border. The normal daily influx is 500 to 1,000 refugees, depending on the level of fighting. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Long lines of packed cars — some with suitcases strapped to roofs — were backed up at the frontier post, witnesses said. A security official said about 2,000 also crossed into Syria, but many of them said they were going in to evacuate relatives.

One woman, Um Ahmad, entered Lebanon with her five children, saying she fearing U.S. strikes on Damascus.

“Isn’t it enough, all the violence and fighting that we already have in the country, now America wants to bomb us, too?” the 45-year-old said, declining to give her full name for security concerns.

Her husband said they know no one in Lebanon but came anyway because of their children. “What will we do here, where will we go? I don’t know, but hopefully we’ll be safe,” he added.

Nearly 2 million Syrians have fled the country since the crisis began in March 2011, and millions more are displaced inside Syria.

Effects were also evident in Israel, where large crowds lined up at gas-mask distribution centers. Maya Avishai of the Israeli postal service, which oversees gas mask distribution, said demand has tripled in recent days. About 5 million Israelis, roughly 60 percent of the population, now have gas masks, she said.

The Israeli government ordered a “limited” call-up of reserve units to bolster civil defense preparations and to operate air-defense units near the border. Officials said the call-up is anticipated to bring in hundreds of troops.

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