Gloom Grips Christians, But Moslems Hopeful War Will End With AM-Lebanon, Bjt
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ For 15 years, the Green Line was the Berlin Wall of Beirut. Now the Green Line is coming down, and some Lebanese are hopeful they can repeat the miracle of Berlin.
″Whoever thought the Berlin Wall would come down? It has and Berlin’s reunited, and hatreds are forgotten. I think Beirut will be reunited too,″ said Moslem housewife Jinan Sukkar.
″There’s a ray of hope now,″ she said as troops began dismantling the three miles of fortifications that have split the capital into Moslem and Christian sectors since 1975.
Asked whether removal of the Green Line could help eliminate the sectarian hatreds generated by the 15-year civil war, Mrs. Sukkar said: ″Why not?″
Her sentiments echoed those of Agriculture Minister Mohsen Dalloul.
″Berlin has been united and has gotten rid of the wall that had divided it for many years. Now it’s Beirut being united with the Green Line ceasing to exist,″ he was quoted as saying over local radio stations.
Abu Ziad, a Moslem taxi driver who has dodged sniper bullets driving across the Green Line, said: ″I’m glad that I lived to see the day the barriers are being knocked down and Beirut is one again.″
In most parts of Lebanon, people were daring to hope that the war may be ending now that rebel Christian Gen. Michel Aoun is gone.
Syrian and government forces defeated Aoun Saturday in eight hours of fighting, sending him fleeing to the French Embassy for refuge.
His defeat ended an 11-month mutiny against President Elias Hrawi’s government and removed the major obstacle to implementing an Arab League- brokered peace plan. The civil war has killed an estimated 150,000 people.
The Moslems’ joy is not shared by Maronite Catholics who supported Aoun. For them, the return of Syrian troops to the Christian heartland north of Beirut bodes nothing but trouble.
Many feel betrayed by Aoun, who had vowed to fight to the death. They are bitter about the speed with which he took sanctuary in the French Embassy when the Syrians attacked.
Aoun rejected the peace plan because it did not guarantee withdrawal of 40,000 Syrian troops. They have been in Lebanon since 1976 under an Arab League mandate, and to many Maronites they are an army of occupation.
In parts of Christian east Beirut and in Aoun’s former stronghold, people whisper about alleged looting by the Syrians and their militia allies. Motorists take detours to avoid Syrian checkpoints in streets where posters of Aoun have been replaced by those of President Hafez Assad of Syria.
″Since the Syrians moved in, my whole family’s been depressed. We avoid talking to one another because once we do it’s all quarrels and screams,″ said Maronite shopowner Roy Barakeh, 32, of Brummana.
″We’re disillusioned. The general let us down. We trusted him. But he ran away, leaving us under the Syrians. We’re licked,″ Barakeh said, blinking back tears.
Hiyam Maalouf, a 35-year-old housewife, said: ″The general would’ve gone down in history as a hero if he’d shot himself instead of fleeing so fast. I can’t forgive him.″
Some young Maronites still idolize the 55-year-old Aoun.
″It’s a nightmare. I wish I could wake up one day and find that Aoun was back,″ said Mireille Rizk, a Maronite high school student. ″He had no planes and his troops were outnumbered and outgunned by the Syrians. He will remain my hero.″
But in Moslem west Beirut and in parts of the Christian heartland, people believe Aoun’s departure will speed the return of law and order. West Beirutis have long accepted Syrian troops and agents of the secret police as the price for relative security.
Salim Hasbani, a physician in east Beirut, says the government can now start disarming the militias.
That’s easier said than done. But as long as the Syrians back Hrawi, no one is likely to defy him.
″The army is one again. Beirut is one again. I think this will enable the government to curb the militias. I think their days are numbered,″ Hasbani said.