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Muslim-Christian Fighting Ends Beirut Truce After 30 Minutes

Associated Press

Christian and Muslim militiamen fought across the line dividing the capital’s eastern and western sectors Tuesday, shattering a brief cease-fire, and new battles were reported in the Shia Muslim drive to overrun Palestinian refugee camps.

Militia leaders called a cease-fire at the so-called Green Line in the morning and declared the strategic Museum Crossing open for the first time in five weeks.

But 30 minutes later, Lebanese soldiers guarding the road at both ends of the crossing threw down barbed-wire coils, blocking the access route, as machine guns began firing.

Residential districts in central Beirut shook as the rival factions opened fire with tank cannon and rocket-propelled grenades.

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About 250 people have been killed since April, which marked the outset of the latest surge of violence along the three-mile line that separates Christian East Beirut and Muslim West Beirut.

Battle for the Camps

Meanwhile, in the fighting between Palestinian guerrillas and Lebanese Shia Muslims that has come to be known as the “battle for the camps,” guerrillas beat back three attempts by Shia militiamen to push into the Chatilla refugee camp, Palestinian spokesmen said. The Shias on Friday overran Sabra, one of three major camps on Beirut’s southern outskirts.

The spokesmen, demanding anonymity, said the attackers struck from three sides of Chatilla under cover of barrages from U.S.-made tanks, mortars and machine guns.

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As militiamen of Amal, the Shia fighting force, and soldiers of the Lebanese army’s overwhelmingly Shia 6th Brigade moved in, the Palestinians fought them hand to hand, a guerrilla spokesman said.

Spokesmen for Amal would not comment on the reported fighting at Chatilla.

Other Shia units pounded the third camp, the sprawling Borj el Brajne, with heavy artillery and mortars.

3 Killed, 7 Wounded

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Police said at least three people were killed and seven wounded in the 16th day of fighting around the camps.

That raised the known casualty toll since the violence broke out May 19 to at least 513 killed and 2,101 wounded. But the actual toll may be much higher, and defenders reported that they have dug mass graves to bury the dead.

The Shias moved against the camps in a bid to smash Palestinian efforts to rebuild the power base they lost in Lebanon when the Israelis drove them out in the 1982 invasion.

Amid Arab efforts to end the bloodletting in the camps, the Lebanese government said Tuesday that it will not attend an extraordinary session of the 22-member Arab League set for Friday in Tunis, Tunisia.

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Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization called for the meeting and accused the Shias of massacring Palestinians in the camps. Shia militias have denied the charge.

Dozen Bodies Removed

In Sabra on Tuesday, a Red Cross convoy removed more than a dozen bodies from the basement morgue of the devastated Gaza Hospital. The hospital’s Lebanese director, Amir Hamawi, said the corpses will be buried in a mass grave with more than 75 other bodies now in Beirut’s American University Hospital.

Other Red Cross units and the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees said they could not enter Borj el Brajne on Tuesday as planned because of the fighting.

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