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Lebanon Druze leader tries to calm fears in Syrian community

SHARE Lebanon Druze leader tries to calm fears in Syrian community

BEIRUT — Lebanon's political leader of the Druze community tried on Friday to calm members of neighboring Syria's minority sect after a deadly al-Qaida raid there killed as many as 20 Druze villagers.

Walid Jumblatt said the attack earlier this week on Qalb Lawzeh village in Syria's northwestern Idlib province was an "individual" incident. Syria's al-Qaida branch, the Nusra Front, killed at least 20 Druze members there on Wednesday.

The Idlib killings were the deadliest since Syria's civil war started in March 2011 against the minority Druze sect, which has been split between supporters and opponents of President Bashar Assad — but has largely stayed out of the fighting.

Jumblatt, a harsh critic of Assad, warned that any incitement "will endanger the Druze of Syria," adding that Assad's forces kill dozens of people every day in Syria.

"There will be no political solution for Syria with Assad," Jumblatt said, speaking after a meeting of the Druze religious leadership in Beirut that was attended by dozens of clerics. "He has taken Syria to destruction."

The spiritual leader of the Lebanese Druze community, Sheikh Naim Hassan, expressed condolences over the killings.

"We stand in silence, pain and sympathy with our people on Qalb Lawzeh. We pray for the martyrs," he said after the Beirut meeting.

On Thursday, Wiam Wahhab, a Lebanese Druze politician close to Assad, called on all the Druze in the southern Syrian province of Sweida to carry arms and defend their villages, as opposition fighters reached the region that has been spared Syria's four-year civil war.

Wahhab urged Assad's government to supply the residents with weapons. He also warned of retaliatory attacks against Nusra Front members in Lebanon in retaliation for the killings in Qalb Lawzeh.

In northern Lebanon, Syrian troops on Friday shot dead a Lebanese citizen and his Syrian cousin in the border region of Wadi Khaled, according to state-run National News Agency that quoted a mayor in the area.

NNA said the two farmers were shot shortly after they returned into Lebanon from the nearby Syrian village of Arida.