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Cease-Fire Broken By Syrian Gunners

April 6, 1989

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Syrian gunners fired rocket and mortar rounds at a Christian Beirut suburb and army positions southeast of the capital today in violation of a cease-fire called by the Arab League, police reported.

A spokesman for Gen. Michel Aoun, head of the Christian forces, said his army units ″did not respond to the provocative acts.″

There was no immediate report of casualties.

Ten 120mm mortars bombarded positions manned by troops in Souk el-Gharb, said the spokesman, who demanded anonymity. ″Three of the mortar rounds did not explode. They have bad ammunition.″

An hour later, six 122mm artillery rockets slammed into Dora, an east Beirut suburb, the spokesman said.

A police spokesman said they were the only shots fired after the cease-fire was called. ″Other fronts are quiet,″ he said.

Police said 177 people have been killed and 576 wounded in the month of fighting in Lebanon between Christian and Moslem forces.

The truce was called Wednesday by Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheik Sabah Ahmed Sabah, who heads a six-man Arab League committee on Lebanon. ″We appeal to all the warring Lebanese parties to observe a cease-fire as of midnight Wednesday,″ Sabah said in Damascus before he met Syrian President Hafez Assad.

Aoun, who heads the Christian Cabinet in Lebanon’s dual government, rejected any truce accord that does not specifically include the Syrians as the main adversary to his 20,000 strong Christian troops.

″There is only one power on the other side that can cease or unleash fire. It is the Syrian army, and any Lebanese cover for the Syrian army is unacceptable,″ Aoun said.

Aoun’s spokesman said the Christian forces ″will not shoot if the Syrian army stops shooting.″

After Sabah’s talks with Assad, a Syrian presidential spokesman, Jibran Kourieh, said Assad expressed support for the Arab League committee.

The cease-fire call was welcomed by acting Prime Minister Salim Hoss, who heads the pro-Syrian Moslem Cabinet in Lebanon.

″I urge all sides to comply with the proposed truce out of mercy for the battered population,″ Hoss said in a statement.

People’s reaction was cautious.

″We’ve decided to leave the underground bomb shelter to check on our apartment and allow the children to enjoy some sunlight,″ said George Zoghbi, a resident of east Beirut’s Christian district of Ashrafiyeh.

″We are keeping the mattresses, blankets and supplies at the shelter. We’ll return to the shelter around midday even if it was quiet,″ said Zoghbi, who runs an import-export business.

Most of the 1 million Christians besieged by Syrian and allied forces in the 310-square-mile enclave northeast of Beirut have spent a month in underground shelters to avoid the daily Syrian bombardment.

Col. Patrick Keogh of Ireland, acting spokesman for the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, today said about 100,000 to 120,000 Lebanese had fled to the U.N.-controlled zone in south Lebanon.

The cease-fire accord, as outlined by Sabah, called for lifting a blockade Aoun imposed on militia-run ports and the siege of the Christian enclave by Syrian and allied forces.

Jamil Hasbini, a Sunni Moslem, said he did not trust the cease-fire and was sending his wife and four children to live with friends in south Lebanon.

″The combatants are only giving us time to catch our breath, stockpile on food and water or leave before they start fighting again,″ he said.