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Priest Killed in Shelling, Six Drown in Wells

July 24, 1989

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Syrian gunners pounded Christian east Beirut and the coast north of the capital today, killing an elderly Greek Orthodox priest and wounding three civilians.

The shelling went on sporadically through the night, but declined in intensity from the fierce bombardment that forced 250,000 residents to flee the city over the weekend, police said.

Christian artillery positions blasted Syrian gun emplacements along west Beirut’s seafront Ein Mreisseh boulevard. But all shells landed offshore and there were no casualties, a police spokesman said.

The spokesman said six people drowned over the weekend trying to raise water from wells in Moslem districts of Beirut, which has been without water for a week.

A leading newspaper said that after 14 years of civil war between Moslems and Christians the city’s cemeteries had run out of space to bury the dead.

At least 453 people have died and 1,859 have been injured since the latest outbreak in the civil war erupted March 8 between army commander Gen. Michel Aoun’s 20,000 mostly Christian troops and the Syrian army.

Syria, which considers Lebanon within its sphere of influence, keeps 40,000 troops there under a 1976 Arab League peacekeeping mandate.

But Aoun, who declared a ″war of liberation″ against Syria, contends the Syrians have violated that mandate by fighting alongside Moslem militias against the Christians in the civil war.

The priest was identified as the Rev. Elia Abdul-Karim, 76, who was killed when a shell hit his house in east Beirut’s Sin el-Fil residential district at dawn, said the police spokesman, who cannot be identified under standing regulations.

Four of the six drowning victims belonged to the same family, said the spokesman.

Hussein Mikdad, 26, climbed down a well in south Beirut’s Shiite Moslem slum of Ouzai on Sunday to bring up water for his house nearby, but slipped off a wooden ladder and drowned, the spokesman said.

So did his brother, Hasan, 27, his cousins Mohammed Ali, 38, and Hassan, 25, who rushed to the rescue one another consecutively, the spokesman added.

Meanwhile the conservative newspaper Ad-Diyar, based in east Beirut, said: ″Cemeteries in Beirut, the city of death, have no room left for new graves.

″Coffins are piled up at the entrances to graveyards with the deceased waiting to find their last resting place,″ said the front-page story.

The newspaper quoted an unnamed cemetery caretaker as saying:″Graves are full. The new fatalities will have to remain out in the open because there is no burial space left in public or private cemeteries.″

More than 150,000 people have been killed since the civil war broke out in 1975, most of them in and around Beirut.

Moslem and Christian clergymen confirmed the newspaper report.

Sustained outbursts of gunfire echoed through Beirut as Christian and Syrian troops skirmished across the city’s dividing Green Line today, keeping traffic between the two sectors down to a trickle for a fourth straight day.

The escalation in fighting underscored Aoun’s attempt to break the Syrian naval and land blockades imposed March 14 against the 310-square-mile enclave north of the capital where about one million Christians live.

The Syrian blockade came in retaliation for one imposed by Aoun’s forces against illegal ports operated by Moslem militias in an effort to recoup some of an estimated $100 million lost annually in customs dues.

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