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Syria, Hezbollah deny involvement in UNIFIL bombing

Hezbollah on Monday denied French accusations that it was behind an attack against French UN peacekeepers and urged Paris to reconsider laying the blame on the group and its Syrian backers.

Hezbollah said it was surprised by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe's remarks over the weekend, when he said the Shia group and the embattled regime in Syria were probably behind a roadside bombing that wounded five French UN peacekeepers in South Lebanon last Friday.

"We condemn such statements which do not befit the foreign minister of an important country such as France," Hezbollah said in a statement.

It urged Juppe to "correct his position and pay heed to the seriousness of such accusations which represent a great injustice."

The French foreign minister on Sunday said he believes Damascus had probably ordered the attack in the coastal city of Tyre and that its ally Hezbollah had assisted in carrying it out.

"We have strong reasons to think that this attack came from there," Juppe said, adding that he had no proof to back his claim.

The incident marked the third such attack this year against members of the United National Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Syria on Monday also denied any involvement in last Friday's attack and criticized Juppe for pointing a finger at Damascus.

"Syria has no link whatsoever with this act which we condemn," foreign ministry spokesperson Jihad Makdisi said in a statement.

The attack on the French peacekeepers came amid heightened tension over the growing nine-month revolt in Syria, with politicians and diplomats warning the unrest could spill into Lebanon, whose government is dominated by Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, more than 5,000 people have now been killed in the government crackdown in Syria, UN rights chief Navi Pillay said Monday calling on the UN Security Council to launch a crimes against humanity case.

Pillay told the Security Council of reports of increased attacks by opposition groups on President Bashar al-Assad's forces but also highlighted "alarming" events in the besieged protest city of Homs.

Her private briefing to the 15-nation council – where Russia and China blocked a resolution condemning Assad in October – heightened divisions over how to respond to the Syria troubles.

France's UN envoy said the council was "morally responsible" for the daily deaths by staying silent.

Russia, a key ally of Syria, retorted that the Western nations only want "regime change.”

Pillay told reporters after the meeting that she had given the new toll of more than 5,000 dead – including more than 300 children – and recommended Assad's crackdown be referred to the International Criminal Court.

"The widespread and systematic nature of the killings, the detentions and the acts of torture – I felt that these acts constituted crimes against humanity," Pillay said.

She told the council that more than 14,000 people have been detained and 12,400 have fled into neighboring countries since protests erupted in March.

The situation in Syria has become "intolerable," Pillay told UN envoys.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

For live updates on the Syrian uprising, follow @NOW_Syria on Twitter or click here.