INTRODUCTION: Fierce fighting continues in the Lebanon as the country entered its sixth year of intermittent civil war.
CU Burnt-out cars outside P.P.S. Headquarters (4 shots)
GV People in street looking at wrecked cars (2 shots)
GV PAN Over damaged building to wreckage in street (4 shots)
GV Christian militiamen during training in hills, firing heavy machine gun (2 shots)
CU Soldiers firing B-10 recoilless cannon
TV Troops carrying weapons moving along road and setting up mortars (4 shots)
GV Soldier firing mortar, shell exploding in hills (2 shots)
GV PAN Over mountains of Mazar covered in snow
GV Jeep trying to climb slippery mountain road
GV Troops abandon jeep and walk forward (2 shots)
SV Troops climbing snow-covered mountain
SV Soldier talking on field radio, soldiers in dug-out (2 shots)
GV More troops arriving in vehicle (3 shots)
GV Troops and vehicles, soldier examining mortar position looking across snow-capped mountains (3 shots)
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Background: INTRODUCTION: Fierce fighting continues in the Lebanon as the country entered its sixth year of intermittent civil war. Much of the recent fighting between right-wing Christians - with Israeli back-up - and Left-wing Moslem forces - supported by Syria - has taken place around the Christian town of Zahle - a city which is strategically important to both sides. The Syrians went to capture the mountains behind Zahle and secure the fertile Bekaa Valley. The Christians fear their mountain strongholds will be vulnerable and their access to the port of Jouneih - their main link with the outside world - will be cut.
SYNOPSIS: Much of the fighting has spilled onto the streets of the capital Beirut. The latest fragile cease fire was broken as shelling and rockets caused scores of casualties. In the southern suburb of Chiah a car bomb exploded killing five people and injuring 15 others. The bomb was planted outside the Syrian Nationalist Social Party Headquarters. The bomb was so powerful it wrecked a number of cars in the street.
Buildings in the area were also damaged. Shelling and shooting between the Christian and Moslem sectors of the city claimed hundreds of victims in recent weeks. Ceasefires were ignored. Witnesses said Lebanese leftist gunners in the Moslem west were firing artillery rockets at the Christian east while rightist gunners were using mainly artillery. Shells were reported falling in residential areas of the city.
There was also fierce fighting for the strategically important Christian town of Zahle. Christian militia groups train in the mountains north of Beirut for the clashes. They were using a five inch machine gun and a BIO recoilless cannon.
The mountains hold one of the keys to the war. If the Syrians captured the high ground around Zahle they could bring their fire to bear on much of this Christian-held area north of Beirut including the harbour at Jouneih that is the Christians' main link with the outside world and the port of entry for resupply from Israel.
The mountains are difficult terrain to fight in. Jeeps with weapons have problems negotiating the slippery slopes. The latest fighting near Zahle brought Israel deeper into the Lebanese conflict. Jet fighters were despatched to the area. Not since 1973 in the Middle East War had Israeli aircraft flown combat missions over the Bekaa Valley. Two Syrian helicopters were brought down. Syria retaliated by setting up Soviet surface-to-air missiles in the Valley and international tension was heightened.
The Syrians have long maintained that the Christian rightists planned to strike down from their North Lebanon strongholds and join up with the Israelis in the South. The object would be to crush the Palestinians and drive out the Syrian troops. Talks were going on for the withdrawal from Zahle of non-local Christian militiamen, which would remove the Syrians' greatest anxiety. Much depends on the action of Israel.
But the battle for the mountains continues. The missile crisis added further worrying international dimensions to the long-running conflict by bringing Syria and Israel more directly into the war.