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Syrian rockets target Hezbollah

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By The Associated Press
Saturday, June 1, 2013, 8:21 p.m.

Sixteen rockets and mortar rounds from Syria slammed into Lebanon on Saturday, the largest cross-border salvo to hit a Hezbollah stronghold since Syrian rebels threatened to retaliate for the Lebanese militant group's armed support of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The rockets targeted the Baalbek region, the latest sign that Syria's civil war is increasingly destabilizing Lebanon. On Friday, the Lebanese parliament decided to put off general elections, originally scheduled for June, by 17 months, blaming a deteriorating security situation in the country.

In Qatar, an influential Sunni Muslim cleric whose TV show is watched by millions across the region fanned the sectarian flames and urged Sunnis everywhere to join the fight against Assad.

“I call on Muslims everywhere to help their brothers be victorious,” Yusuf al-Qaradawi said in his Friday sermon in the Qatari capital of Doha. “If I had the ability, I would go and fight with them.

“Everyone who has the ability and has training to kill ... is required to go,” said al-Qaradawi, who is in his 80s.

In a rally for Syria's rebels later Friday, he denounced Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, as “more infidel than Christians and Jews” and Shiite Muslim Hezbollah as “the party of the devil.”

He said there is no more common ground between Shiites and Sunnis, alleging that Shiite Iran is trying to “devour” Sunnis.

Predominantly Sunni rebels backed by Sunni states Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are fighting against a regime that relies on support from Alawites, Shiites and Christians at home, and is aided by Iran and Hezbollah. The Syria conflict is also part of a wider battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran for regional influence.

Sunni fighters from Iraq and Lebanon have crossed into Syria to help those fighting Assad, while Shiites from Iraq have joined the battle on the regime's side.

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