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Thousands Flee Beirut in Brief Truce for Wounded

From Times Wire Services

Thousands of civilians fled West Beirut on Tuesday as Christian and Syrian gunners held their fire briefly to allow the evacuation of 70 severely wounded Muslims to a French hospital ship.

Hundreds of cars packed with suitcases and mattresses sped down a seaside highway to south and east Lebanon as the wounded were assembled outside the home of acting Premier Salim Hoss.

Eight people were killed and 43 wounded overnight as the city’s divided population huddled in bunkers and bomb shelters for another night. That raised the toll to 243 killed and 890 wounded since fighting erupted March 14.

Pillars of flame from burning buildings lit the sky, and the city was laden with smoke as Christian army units and Syrian and Muslim gunners bombarded the capital with rocket, artillery and tank fire.

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Police said the state’s Christian television station in East Beirut took 30 direct hits. It has stopped broadcasting.

A Christian barrage gutted Muslim Radio Beirut’s nine-story building Sunday.

France’s President Francois Mitterrand asked President Bush, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and other world leaders Tuesday to help end the fighting in this former French colony, a Mitterrand spokesman said.

U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the United States is unable to end the violence and has little influence with Syria.

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The Arab League Council called an emergency meeting for Friday on Lebanon, although it has failed to stop the fighting with three unsuccessful truces.

The council is composed of the foreign ministers of the 22 member states, which in 1976 granted Syria a mandate to pacify Lebanon.

The wounded Muslims were driven with 50 relatives in ambulances and taxis to Sidon, 25 miles south of Beirut. They are to be ferried to the hospital ship Rance, then flown to France.

In the Christian port of Juniyah, north of Beirut, witnesses said that hundreds of panic-stricken Christians boarded small motor launches to reach a ferry plying between Lebanon and Larnaca, Cyprus.

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Two Cypriot-flagged ferries provide the only link with the outside world for the besieged Christians and have carried thousands to Larnaca since the fighting started.

Another French vessel, a tanker, was sailing off Lebanon while French officials negotiated to unload fuel oil to reactivate power stations. Beirut has been without power since Sunday.


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