Syrian-Christian Artillery Battle Rages in Beirut; 1 Dead, 27 Hurt

From Associated Press

Rockets and shells rained on Beirut on Sunday, leaving buildings and cars in flames as Syrian and Christian gunners fought one of their heaviest battles in nearly two months. Police said one person died and 27 were wounded.

The bombardment began at dusk Saturday and raged through Sunday in the streets of Beirut’s Muslim and Christian sectors.

Tens of thousands of residents spent the night in basements and bomb shelters as about 1,500 shells and rockets hit the city, which has been without electricity and water for two days. Authorities said the city was without power because of a lack of fuel at the central power generator in the seaside region of Zouk, north of Beirut.

There was a two-hour lull at daybreak, allowing people to venture out to supermarkets to stock up on supplies. The shelling resumed at mid-morning.


Death Toll Past 400

More than 400 have been killed and at least 1,600 injured since the current round of fighting broke out in mid-March between Syrian troops and the mainly Christian troops of army Maj. Gen. Michel Aoun.

“It’s almost two months since we were pounded with such intensity,” said a resident of a Christian district in East Beirut.

The weekend shelling began with a Syrian barrage on the coastline of the Christian enclave. The Syrians have been shelling the coast in an effort to prevent shipments of food, fuel and arms from reaching the Christians.


A spokesman for Aoun’s command, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Syrian shelling targeted two ships that were trying to enter the Christian port of Byblos, 19 miles north of Beirut.

“One fuel tanker managed to slip through the Syrian barrage, while the other ship that carried food supplies veered back toward international waters,” the spokesman said.

Police said Aoun’s gunners struck back with 155-millimeter howitzers, targeting Syrian batteries along West Beirut’s seaside districts of Ein el Mreisse, Raouche and Ramlet al-Baida.

“The shelling then steadily escalated into random bombardment of residential neighborhoods,” said a police spokesman, who could not be identified because of regulations.