A car bomb exploded in a crowded Shia Muslim neighborhood today, killing 15 people and wounding 80, police said.
The mainstream Shia Amal militia accused PLO leader Yasser Arafat of engineering the blast. "It is a gift carrying death from Arafat," an Amal statement said.
Four other people were killed and 12 wounded earlier in the day in mortar and rocket duels between Palestinian guerrillas and Shia militiamen fighting for control of refugee camps near the blast scene.
The car, a white Mercedes-Benz, was laden with 165 pounds of explosives attached to a timing device, police said. It detonated near a filling station in the Roweiss district, starting fires and damaging about 10 cars in a narrow alley.
Third Blast This Year
It was the first car bomb explosion in Muslim West Beirut this year and the third in the city, which is divided into Muslim and Christian sectors.
Militiamen of Justice Minister Nabih Berri's Amal rushed into the street, firing rifles in the air to make way so ambulances and cars could evacuate casualties.
Muslim radio stations interrupted programs with hospital appeals for blood donations.
Rescuers carried away car bomb casualties as the thud of exploding shells from the "camps war" echoed across the Shia slums of south Beirut, and as Palestinian women and children pleaded in the streets for humanitarian aid for people suffering in blockaded refugee camps.
Amal Positions Bombarded
Big guns of the Palestine Liberation Organization, deployed in the mountains overlooking Beirut, pounded Amal strongholds in the Shia shantytowns surrounding the Chatilla and Borj el Brajne camps. The artillery fire was meant to ease pressure by Shia forces on the two camps, police said.
Shia units hammered the camps with tank cannon and mortar fire, police said.
PLO communiques said the 35,000 Palestinian refugees in Borj el Brajne were enduring "acute shortages of food, drinking water and medical supplies."
A senior Sunni Muslim clergyman in the refugee camp, Sheik Khalil Sharkiyeh, appealed to "all Muslim scholars" for a fatwa, or religious ruling, allowing Borj el Brajne's population to eat human flesh to survive an Amal-imposed blockade, a PLO spokesman said.
Dogs, Cats Eaten
"Our people in Borj el Brajne have already eaten all the cats and dogs they had, nothing is left to eat and Amal is still refusing to allow supplies into the camp," added the spokesman.