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Beirut Police Join Syrian Force; 7 Hurt in Camp Clash

March 01, 1987|From Times Wire Services

BEIRUT — About 100 Lebanese police joined Syrian soldiers Saturday to enforce peace in Muslim West Beirut, where a weeklong clash between rival Muslim militias in mid-February reportedly killed at least 300 people and wounded 1,300.

In the south of the Lebanese capital, an artillery battle erupted between Shia Muslim Amal militiamen and Palestinian guerrillas at the Borj el Brajne refugee camp, wounding at least seven people, according to police.

The Palestinian camp has been under siege by the Amal militia for the past four months.

Meanwhile in Damascus, Lebanese Muslim leaders met with Syrian officials to assess the progress in West Beirut since the Syrian deployment of 7,000 troops a week ago.

Part of Security Plan

It was at the request of the Lebanese leaders that Syrian forces moved into the capital's western sector Feb. 21 to put an end to six days of fierce fighting between Amal and a leftist alliance of the Druze militia and the small Lebanese Communist Party.

Riot police joined Syrian forces in manning 23 checkpoints Saturday, searching pedestrians for weapons and directing traffic. Last week, the Syrians closed the various militia offices in West Beirut.

A police official, who demanded anonymity, said deployment of the riot police was in line with a security plan worked out by Prime Minister Rashid Karami and senior Syrian officers.

Members of the Lebanese army, mostly Shias, were deployed Wednesday along the western side of the 3-mile-long Green Line that splits Beirut into Muslim and Christian sectors. The 32,000-member army is divided along sectarian lines, with different brigades loyal to different factions.

Police said Saturday's clashes between Amal and Palestinian guerrillas at the camp lasted about 20 minutes before a cease-fire was ordered by a committee representing both sides. Each side blamed the other for the flare-up.

The Syrian-backed Amal militia has been fighting the Palestinians since May, 1985, seeking to curb the return of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the power base it lost when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982.

Late last year, Amal began a siege of some refugee camps. The situation eased after the Syrians entered West Beirut and food was allowed into the camps.

In Damascus, Druze militia chief Walid Jumblatt led officials of his Progressive Socialist Party in talks with Syrian Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam to assess the Beirut situation, according to the official Syrian news agency SANA.

Mapping New Strategy

Jumblatt told reporters afterward, "Of course, we want to close the old chapter and open a new one for a national democratic alliance with all national forces in the Lebanese arena, including the Amal movement."

The Druze leader later joined Karami, Parliament Speaker Hussein Husseini, Education Minister Salim Hoss and Justice Minister Nabih Berri, leader of Amal, for talks with the Syrians to map out the next stage of a security plan for West Beirut, SANA said.

The Syrian team, headed by Khaddam, also included Premier Abdel-Raouf Kasm, People's Council Speaker Mahmud Zubi and Foreign Minister Farouk Shareh.

Sources close to the Lebanese delegation said they might meet with Syrian President Hafez Assad.

The Beirut newspaper As Safir said the Damascus talks would focus on repairing inter-Muslim relations and mending fences between Assad and Jumblatt.

The Druze leader and the Syrian government are at odds apparently because of Jumblatt's support for the Palestinians in their fight against Amal, the paper said.

All 15 members of the Politburo of Jumblatt's party accompanied him to Damascus.

The Sunni, Shia and Druze factions are nominal allies in nearly 12 years of civil war with Lebanon's Christians, but have periodic clashes among themselves.

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