Muslim Militia Closes In on Palestinian Camp Bastion
Shia Muslim militiamen closed in on holdout Palestinians in the Chatilla refugee camp Thursday--firing grenades and inching through dusty lanes toward the last-stand bastion in a mosque and adjacent school.
The Palestinians appeared to be running low on ammunition.
Advancing militiamen encountered only sniper fire and hand grenades lobbed from the mosque and school, which were ringed by Shia armor. There was silence in the hills east of the city, from which Palestinians had rained rocket and artillery fire on Shia positions overnight.
Police said fighters of the Shia militia Amal appeared to be preparing for a ground assault to overrun the Palestinians.
Security at University
Meanwhile, the leaders of Lebanon’s two main Muslim militias, Nabih Berri, head of Amal and Druze warlord Walid Jumblatt, said they are forming a joint security force to guard the area around American University and its hospital, apparently in an effort to stop kidnapings.
Thomas Sutherland, dean of the school of agriculture, was kidnaped Sunday. He was the fourth university official abducted since December and the eighth American seized since March, 1984.
The faculty appealed in a published statement Thursday that political and spiritual leaders “make strenuous efforts to guarantee the safety and freedom” of Sutherland.
Police had no casualty reports on the daylight fighting at Chatilla but said Thursday morning that 12 people were killed and 38 wounded there and in sniper duels around the Borj el Brajne camp 1 1/2 miles to the south. That brought the overall known casualty toll in the battle for the three Beirut camps to 560 killed and 2,289 wounded.
Attacked Aimed at PLO
Amal militiamen, backed by Shia soldiers of the army’s 6th Brigade, attacked the camps May 19 to prevent the Palestine Liberation Organization from rebuilding the Lebanon base it lost in the 1982 Israeli invasion.
They captured the Sabra camp two weeks ago. The conquest of adjoining Chatilla would end the danger of Palestinians seizing nearby highways that link Beirut’s Muslim sectors with Shia suburbs.
Snipers also were active along the Green Line between the Muslim and Christian sectors of Beirut. Police said the crossings were closed for the third straight day.
Meanwhile, government sources said President Amin Gemayel asked that U.N. peacekeeping troops in southern Lebanon move to end Israel’s “proxy occupation” of a buffer zone through a Lebanese militia it finances.
Request by Gemayel
Gemayel made the request in talks Wednesday with Brian Urquhart, a U.N. undersecretary general, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Urquhart is trying to arrange the release of 21 Finnish members of the U.N. peacekeeping force held since last week by the Israeli-backed militia, called the South Lebanon Army.
The U.N. envoy was in Damascus on Thursday. Syria is the main power broker in Lebanon and has an estimated 30,000 troops stationed in northern and eastern areas of the country.
Israel pulled its last fighting unit out of southern Lebanon on Monday, but Israeli military sources privately acknowledged that up to 100 soldiers remain behind, mainly as advisers to the SLA militia.
The sources said Gemayel told Urquhart: “We don’t consider this a withdrawal. It is merely a redeployment. The so-called South Lebanon Army is not a separate entity. It is an extension and an integral part of the Israeli army. Its presence means Israeli occupation by proxy.”