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Truce Silences Artillery, but Beirut Is Still Wary as 20 Are Killed

August 24, 1985|Associated Press

BEIRUT — Rival militias killed 20 people and wounded 89 in a last frenzy of shelling, then silenced their guns Friday in a Syrian-sponsored cease-fire.

But there were no signs that Syria would police the truce and few of the city's wary residents emerged from their bunkers.

The cease-fire ended 12 days of car bombings and artillery and rocket fire that killed more than 320 people, most of them civilians. At least 1,100 were wounded.

Police said nearly all residential areas in the city were hit in six hours of fierce shelling before the cease-fire. Small-arms fire continued along the line that divides Beirut's shell-pocked Christian and Muslim sectors.

Beirut airport reopened after being closed for two days. It had been hit by 130 shells and rockets since Sunday.

The cease-fire finally silenced the big guns at midnight Thursday, 11 hours after the time set by Lebanon's "security committee," which includes delegates of the army and the main militias under Syrian direction.

There was no immediate indication that Syria would deploy military observers to enforce the cease-fire as Rashid Karami, the Sunni Muslim premier, has requested.

Karami's government is crippled by Muslim-Christian animosities that also have rendered President Amin Gemayel, a Maronite Christian, virtually powerless. The army is factionalized, which leaves the 25,000 troops Syria maintains in eastern Lebanon as the only force strong enough to counter the militias.

Some Shops Reopen

Some shops reopened in Muslim West Beirut but most people, distrustful of cease-fires, stayed close to shelter. Christians in East Beirut were equally cautious, but some children, freed from basements and bunkers for the first time in days, played in the streets near the sandbagged entrances to their homes.

Syrian President Hafez Assad has made clear that he wants to end the sectarian carnage. However, he appears reluctant to send troops into Beirut again. The Syrian army pulled out of Beirut when Israel invaded the country in 1982 and drove north to the capital. Assad's troops now are stationed in north and east Lebanon.

Informed sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Syrians were studying three security options: sending a limited number of soldiers to enforce the cease-fire, moving a 50-man observer team into East Beirut to match the one now posted in the Muslim sector and trying to arrange for all militias to turn their heavy weapons over to the Lebanese army.

There has been a greater Syrian presence in Beirut in recent weeks. Official sources said Thursday that about 3,000 Syrian intelligence agents have been deployed in the city to help restore the government's authority.

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