10 Killed, 29 Wounded in Shiite-Palestinian Fighting
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ A sudden outbreak of mortar and rocket battles between Palestinian and Shiite Moslem fighters, during rush hour in Beirut’s southern slums, killed 10 people and wounded 29 on Tuesday, police said.
The casualties brought to 23 dead and 99 wounded the overall toll from fighting that broke out last Wednesday evening around the Palestinian refugee camp of Bourj el-Barajneh.
Both groups accused the other of starting Tuesday’s shooting.
A Palestine Liberation Organization spokesman said it began 1:35 p.m. when two 60-millimeter mortar rounds fired by Shiite militia gunners slammed into a playground in the camp, killing four children and injuring 11.
″The 11 children are in critical condition,″ the spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press by telephone. ″We responded in kind to the provocative shelling,″ he said.
Amal, the mainstream Shiite militia of Justice Minister Nabih Berri, said in a statement: ″The Palestinians opened fire indiscriminately on the residential districts of Bir Abed, Haret Hreik and Ghobeiry.″
The three low-income, predominantly Shiite districts surround Bourj el- Barajneh, which houses 50,000 people.
Police said six civilians were killed and 18 wounded in the Palestinian shelling of the crowded neighborhoods.
Lebanese casualties included four members of a Shiite family who died instantly when a rocket fired by Palestinian guerrillas exploded in their apartment in Bir Abed, said a police source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Dozens of ambulances and private cars, sirens wailing and horns honking, ferried casualties from the battle zone to the American University Hospital and other medical centers in Moslem west Beirut. The exchange broke out in the ″early afternoon rush hour when students and employees were returning home, which resulted in the high casualty toll,″ the police source explained.
The hostilities shattered a relative lull that had prevailed over southern Beirut for two days and interrupted traffic along the highway leading to the city’s only airport.
An airport official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said ″screaming passengers and employees ducked for cover when stray machine gun rounds hit the departure lounge.″ However, no casualties were reported in the airport, he said.
Amal sporadically has fought Palestinian guerrillas in Lebanon since May 1985 with the declared aim of preventing PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat from rebuilding a Lebanon power base that Israel destroyed in its 1982 invasion.
At least 860 people have been killed and 2,329 wounded in Shiite- Palestinian warfare in Beirut, by police count.
In south Lebanon, four Israeli soldiers were wounded Tuesday by mortar fire, the military command in Tel Aviv announced.
The soldiers were injured near the Shiite village of Aishiye in Israel’s self-designated security zone, a 6-to-10 mile-wide strip north of the Israeli border.
An army spokesman requesting anonymity, said the soldiers suffered light to moderate wounds and were evacuated to the northern Israeli city of Haifa.
Aishiye was the scene of heavy fighting last month between Shiite militiamen and members of the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army which patrols the security zone.
Israel keeps about 1,000 soldiers in the security zone to support the mainly Christian South Lebanon Army militia.