The 18-month-old civil war in Lebanon entered a new phase late last week as Syrian and right-wing troops fought their way through the mountains east of Beirut in a bid to take over the leftist stronghold at Aley.
GV Smoke over Arsoun village, east Lebanon
SV Falangists advance up hillside
LV & SV Troops running and firing through smoking ruins (4 shots)
CU Village sign Aarbaniye
SV & CU Troops drive through village in armed landrover (3 shots)
CU & SV Troops resting PAN UP TO building with cross (2 shots)
SV PAN Troops driving past in armed vehicles
GV Buildings in Aley
SV & CU Palestinian and Lebanese soldiers in streets (2 shots)
LV Smoke over building where military leaders are meeting
SV PAN Leaders leave building
SV PAN Yasser Arafat leaves building and into car
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: The 18-month-old civil war in Lebanon entered a new phase late last week as Syrian and right-wing troops fought their way through the mountains east of Beirut in a bid to take over the leftist stronghold at Aley.
SYNOPSIS: The village of Arson was one of the casualties of the powerful and rapid attack launched by the Syrians and rightists last Tuesday (27 September). With the attack came a distinct threat to territory which the leftists and their Palestinian allies are fiercely defending. By Friday (1 October) the offensive had swept across a 90-square-mile (150 square kilometre) area where most of the population are Maronite Christians. The Palestinians have been regarding it mainly as a bargaining counter which they were willing to trade for concessions by the Syrians and rightists. Throughout Thursday night (30 September) and early Friday, Syrian tanks occupied village after village including Aarbaniye.
Reports from the area said the onslaught met little resistance from disorganised Palestinians. As the right wing attack continued throughout Friday it became increasingly obvious that their major targets -- Aley and Bhamdoun -- would be next to be attacked. The two towns are not part of the Maronite heartland to the north, and are of major importance to the leftist-Palestinian allies. Aley is the mountain headquarters of the leftist national movement and is populated largely by Druze -- members of a breakaway Moslem sect. Bhamdoun has a mixed population, but most of its Christians are Greek Orthodox. By late Friday both left and right wing radio stations reported that rightist forces were attacking the northwestern approaches to Aley, in the area where the main road runs down to the rightist-held suburbs of Beirut.
During Thursday, Palestinian and leftist leaders, including Palestinian Liberation Organisation leader, Yasser Arafat, met in Aley to discuss the worsening situation. It was the second major military defeat for their alliance since right-wing forces overran Beirut's teeming Tel Al-Zaatar refugee camp in August. Right-wing radio claimed that hundreds of Palestinians had surrendered and others were being chased in the mountains. But the voice of Palestine radio said the attacking forces had suffered heavy casualties and losses in equipment. It also reported that the Palestinians and leftists were taking up new positions after withdrawing, and would continue to resist their attackers.