Intermittent Fighting Keeps Residents Underground
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Some Beirut residents ventured out of hiding Friday after 20 hours of shelling and rocket fire subsided, but sporadic mortar blasts kept many people off the streets and delayed a French mercy mission.
″God knows what happened to my daughter and baby boy,″ said Nada Makke, a bank employee, as she hurried down a Beirut street.
″I stayed at the bank all day and all night with five other colleagues. I telephoned home several times but there was no answer. The maid must have taken the kids to the basement,″ she said.
A police spokesman said 25,000 shells and rockets hit Beirut’s Moslem and Christian sectors in the duels that began Thursday morning, the 14th anniversary of the outbreak of the civil war.
Nineteen people were killed and 50 wounded in the exhanges, which eased after the Arab League issued a cease-fire appeal - its third in the past month.
By police count, 215 people have been killed and 727 wounded in the confrontation that began March 8 between Gen. Michel Aoun’s Christian army units and an alliance of Syrian troops and Druse militiamen.
A source at the Moslem Cabinet of acting Prime Minister Salim Hoss said two French navy vessels - the hospital ship La Rance and the oil tanker Penhors - remained outside Lebanese waters because of ″differences between local militias on the French assistance.″
La Rance was scheduled to drop anchor in neutral Lebanese waters Thursday afternoon to treat Moslem and Christian casualties.
Penhors was last reported sailing toward power stations to provide them with badly needed supplies of fuel oil.
The source said Bernard Kouchner, the French minister for humanitarian assistance, was ″exerting efforts to overcome the difficulties and get the French mercy mission running.″
Doctors have said the hospital ship would help ease the pressures on the various hospitals in Beirut, especially those caught in the fighting.
Several shells hit the Saint Charles hospital in the Christian suburb of Hazmiyeh on Thursday, forcing management to evacuate the 92 patients to other medical centers, police said.
In Cyprus, an Italian tanker hit in Thursday’s shelling anchored off the port of Zighi with a gaping hole in its stern and a 20-man crew described by the captain as ″in shock.″
The Isola Azzurra was hit by an artillery shell while anchored 1.5 miles off Beirut. Capt. Alvaro Del Pisoia, said the vessel carried 4,000 tons of sulfuric acid destined for a Lebanese firm.
″When the first shell landed in the sea, I didn’t realize we were the target. Then the second one fell after 30 seconds only 50 meters (yards) away,″ he said in a radio interview from a Cypriot Coast Guard yacht.
″After the second shell I started heading off to open waters, managing to escape the third shell, but not the forth which hit the stern,″ Del Pisoia added. He sailed to Cyprus 100 miles west.
The latest round of violence broke out after Aoun ordered a blockade of militia-run ports that deprive the state treasury of millions of dollars in tax revenues.
The Progressive Socialist Party militia of Druse warlord Walid Jumblatt shelled the 310-square-mile Christian enclave in retaliation.
Syrian gunners then joined their allies in bombarding Christian regions, and Lebanese Moslem army troops besieged the crescent-shaped Christian enclave, where 1 million Christians live.