Lebanese Shia Muslims lifted a three-year siege of Beirut’s Palestinian camps today, and thousands of refugees cheered and tossed flowers at the Syrian troops who replaced them.
Hundreds of Amal militiamen and troops of the army’s largely Shia 6th Brigade withdrew from positions around the battered Chatilla and Borj el Brajne camps in south Beirut.
Hundreds of Syrian troops then deployed at the camps, under siege since May, 1985, in a conflict that left at least 2,500 dead. The Syrians were greeted by thousands of refugees chanting welcome slogans and tossing flowers.
“The Syrian deployment ends our nightmare,” Mohammed, a 24-year-old Palestinian fighter, said at the Chatilla camp.
“We’ve been living in a big prison and now we have regained our freedom. We’ve had enough of suffering and it’s about time to live like normal human beings,” he said.
Feared Death, Kidnaping
Mohammed, like thousands of Palestinian males, had not moved out of his camp for three years for fear of being killed or kidnaped by Amal militiamen.
The blockade, aimed at curbing the military power of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Lebanon, was partially lifted last April when Syrian officials enforced a cease-fire in the bitter “camps war.”
Since then, only women and children have been allowed out for food and medical supplies. Amal officials said Tuesday that men of all ages will be able to move freely after the withdrawal is completed.
On Saturday, Amal leader Nabih Berri announced that his men would lift their siege of the two camps in Beirut and one in south Lebanon as a tribute to Palestinian protests in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
There was no immediate word of similar moves at the Rashidiyeh camp, near the port of Tyre, 45 miles south of Beirut.
3 Guerrillas Slain
Early today, Israeli soldiers shot and killed three Arab guerrillas minutes after they slipped across Israel’s northern border on their way to attack settlements in the area, military officials said.
One Israeli soldier was seriously wounded in the clash, which occurred near the town of Menara, about 100 miles north of Jerusalem on the Lebanon border.
In Sidon, Lebanon, a spokesman for the main PLO group, Al Fatah, claimed responsibility for the infiltration, saying it was carried out “in response to orders made personally” by PLO Chairman Arafat.
In the latest violent clash between Israeli forces and Palestinians, a police jeep stoned by children in Arab east Jerusalem ran down a protester and crashed today, injuring two officers.
The incident occurred when Palestinian children blocked streets with burning tires in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya and threw stones at a police jeep. Police said the jeep spun out of control, ran down and injured a protester, hit a power pole and flipped over, injuring two officers riding in it. They said 28 Arabs were arrested.