Gen. Michel Aoun's tanks broke into a stronghold of his Christian militia rivals today, after a week of battle, and advanced toward the command post of Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, police said.
They said the tanks, with cannons blazing, drove to within 300 yards of the Kassardjian militia base in Ein Rummaneh, a working-class district of Christian East Beirut.
Witnesses in hills above the Christian sector, reached by telephone from Cyprus, reported heavy fighting in Ein Rummaneh south of the Karantina quarter, where Geagea has his headquarters.
Explosions echoed across the city as militia crouching in alleyways fired armor-piercing rockets at the tanks and their comrades hurled grenades from rooftops.
Shells hit hospitals, schools and churches. They set fuel tanks, power plants, factories and apartment houses ablaze.
Fires burned out of control because pumping stations were knocked out and no water was available to fight them.
Several hospitals said they they could not function for more than two or three days because water, blood, plasma and oxygen supplies were virtually exhausted.
Shellfire slackened in some districts at dawn today, allowing tens of thousands of civilians to leave basements and underground bomb shelters where some had lived for six days.