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Hezbollah hit by rockets after Assad pledge

BEIRUT -- Two rockets hit Hezbollah strongholds in Beirut on Sunday, tearing through an apartment and peppering cars with shrapnel, a day after the Lebanese group's leader pledged to lift President Bashar Assad to victory in Syria's civil war.

The strikes illustrated the potential backlash against Hezbollah at home for linking its fate to the survival of the Assad regime. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah made it clear there is no turning back. In a televised speech Saturday, he said Hezbollah will keep fighting alongside Assad's forces until victory, regardless of the costs.

Hezbollah, a Shia Muslim group, is raising the sectarian stakes in Lebanon by declaring war on Syria's rebels, most of them Sunni Muslims. Lebanon and Syria share the same uneasy mix of Sunnis, Shias, Christians and Alawites, who are followers of an offshoot of Shia Islam. In trying to defeat the rebels, Assad relies on support from minority Shias, Christians and his fellow Alawites.

The rockets struck early Sunday in south Beirut, an unusual type of attack. In occasional sectarian flare-ups since the end of Lebanon's 15-year civil war in 1990, rival groups have mostly fought in the streets.

One rocket hit a car dealership in the Mar Mikhael district, wounding four Syrian workers, badly damaging two cars and spraying others with shrapnel. The second rocket tore through a second-floor apartment in the Chiyah district, about a mile away. No one was hurt.

Rocket launchers were later found in the woods in a predominantly Christian and Druse area southeast of Beirut, security officials said.

There was no claim of responsibility, but the attack was widely portrayed as retaliation for Nasrallah's speech and Hezbollah's participation in an offensive in the past week on a rebel-held Syrian town, Qusair, near Lebanon. The Assad regime has pushed back rebels there, but has so far failed to dislodge them.

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