Four people died and dozens were wounded in sectarian clashes in the Lebanese city of Tripoli yesterday as the civil war in Syria again threatened to spill over the border.
Sunni Muslims and Alawites exchanged gun and grenade fire in sporadic fighting around Syria Street, the symbolic "dividing line" between the rival districts. The Lebanese army said it had responded "swiftly".
About 60 people, some of them soldiers, were wounded in the clashes. Lebanon's prime minister Najib Mikati expressed his concerns over the "absurd battle" in Tripoli, his home town.
"We have repeatedly warned against being drawn into this blaze that has spread around Lebanon," he said. "But it is clear that several parties want to push Lebanon into the conflict."
Meanwhile a senior Syrian regime figure admitted for the first time yesterday that the embattled president Bashar Al Assad could step down. Qadri Jamil, the deputy prime minister, said the government would be willing to discuss Mr Al Assad's resignation if the opposition agreed to peace talks.
"Making his resignation a condition for dialogue effectively makes such a dialogue impossible," Mr Jamil said in Moscow. "During the negotiating process any issues can be discussed, and we are ready to discuss even this."
Syria's air force has redeployed 30 Soviet-era Sukhoi fighter-bomber jets that can drop 400kg bombs, an opposition leader said yesterday. "They are within range to hit Aleppo, Homs and Deir El Zour and areas in Idlib province," Mohammad Mroueh said.
Government jets dropped two bombs yesterday on the village of Mari' near Aleppo, according to activists. Regime forces also attacked several villages north of Aleppo as well as Moadamiyeh, west of Damascus, where activists claimed three men were executed.
They said at least 24 people were killed nationwide yesterday.