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Syrian rocket fire kills little girl in Iraqi border town

Grieving father: "She was sitting on my lap just before we heard the rocket."

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Iraqi refugees returning from Syria to Iraq. (Wathiq Khuzaie/Stringer/Getty Images)

Syrian rocket fire today killed a five-year-old girl in a town along Iraq's border with Syria, prompting a fierce response from Baghdad, reported Reuters

A total of four rockets reportedly hit the little girl's town of Al-Qaim, and one of them smashed right through the wall of her home. Her father, Firas Attallah, told Reuters his child "was sitting on my lap just before we heard the rocket," adding, "I knew she was dead immediately after the explosion."

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The interior ministry today denounced what it called a "criminal operation," said Reuters. It was not immediately clear who had fired the rockets.

A local Iraqi police captain, Ali Juwayir, told Lebanon's NOW that the rounds were fired just before midnight on Friday an hit two homes in Al-Qaim. The village lies near the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal, home to a military base and the scene of intense fighting between Syrian forces and rebels. 

Baghdad today said it would not tolerate further violence. "Despite the fact that Iraq is committed to adopting a neutral stance towards the crisis in Syria, our brave forces are ready to confront and respond in case of repetition of such aggression," read the interior ministry statement, according to Reuters

Iraq has been noticeably silent on Syria, where fighting first broke out over a year ago. Baghdad has not joined international calls for Syria's President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power in the face of an armed rebellion against his rule despite a death toll of 23,000 and growing. 

Assad is a member of an offshoot Shiite sect and allied to Iran, with whom Baghdad's Shiite-led government is striving to deepen ties. Iraqi leaders are also probably wary of the rise of a neighboring Sunni power, said Reuters, with the Syrian rebel movement largely Sunni-led. 

Baghdad has denied allowing Assad to use its airspace despite US charges. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iraq/120908/rocket-fire-syria-kills-little-girl-iraqi-border-town