BEIRUT, Lebanon -- At least three Lebanese Army soldiers were killed on Friday in a shootout as they tried to arrest a resident of a village that has become a hub of refugees and where Syrian rebel fighters often cross the border. Their target was also fatally shot.
There were conflicting reports about the nature of the clash, in which security forces were ambushed as they pursued a wanted man, but the episode played into fears that the accelerating influx of Syrians could spread the conflict into Lebanon.
The village, Aarsel, lies in the eastern Bekaa Valley, a mountainous region bordering Syria, and is a stronghold of support for the rebellion against the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. Syrian refugees who prefer to avoid areas of the Bekaa closely controlled by Hezbollah, an ally of Mr. Assad, have also crammed into the town.
In a statement, the Lebanese Army said that a captain was among those killed and declared without elaborating, "There will be no compromises on attempts to hide armed militants."
Some reports, citing unnamed security sources, said that the soldiers were attacked by Syrian rebels, while residents said that villagers chased down and attacked plainclothes security personnel who arrived to arrest a Lebanese suspect without coordinating with local leaders.
The suspect, a resident of Aarsel, was identified as Khaled Hummayed. Lebanon's national news agency said that he was wanted for involvement in the kidnapping of Estonian tourists in the Bekaa in 2011.
Several Lebanese media outlets said that members of the Free Syrian Army, the loose-knit rebel coalition, attacked the soldiers, while Reuters reported that Mr. Hummayed was believed to be a member of a jihadist rebel group that has been active in Syria, Al Nusra Front, who traveled frequently in and out of the country.
The deputy mayor of Aarsel said that Mr. Hummayed was driving a pickup truck when security personnel in civilian cars confronted him, shot him, and left with his body. He said he did not know if Mr. Hummayed was involved with Syrian rebels, but added, "90 percent of Aarsel's people support the revolution."
A smuggler from Aarsel, who gave only a nickname, Abu Hussein, said he was on the way to Friday Prayer and witnessed the shootout. He said that Mr. Hummayed's pickup truck was left behind, smeared with blood, as angry residents pursued the cars. He said that Mr. Hummayed had once draped the flag of the Syrian revolution around his body.
Supporters of the revolution are deeply suspicious of Lebanese security forces, which they see as aiding the Syrian government. Lebanon has officially adopted a policy of "disassociation" from the Syrian conflict.
But in practice, many Lebanese have taken sides, with many Sunni Muslims supporting the rebellion led by Syria's Sunni majority, while Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim movement that relies on Syria as an arms conduit, has supported the government dominated by Mr. Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiism.
The border area has been tense, with rebels hiding and resting on the Lebanese side, and Syrian troops sometimes shelling Lebanese territory, crossing the border to fight rebels or shooting civilian refugees as they flee.
New pressures are growing as the flow of refugees -- there are already more than 200,000 in Lebanon, a country of 4 million -- overtaxes Sunni areas that have hosted most of them and pushes refugees into new areas.
More than 2 million people are displaced inside Syria, and on Friday, the United Nations children's agency said 420,000 people -- half of them children -- needed urgent help in the province of Homs.
A spokeswoman for Unicef, Marixie Mercado, told reporters in Geneva that 200 of Homs's 1,500 schools were damaged, with 65 more housing refugees, news agencies reported.
The United Nations refugee agency said it had for the first time reached the town of Azaz, near the Turkish border, to deliver tents with Syrian government permission, and found 45,000 people living in makeshift tents.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.