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CHRISTIAN MILITIAS BATTLE IN LEBANON

By Reuters / February 6, 1990



BEIRUT

Rival Christian forces fought 14 hours of hand-to-hand battles in east Beirut, after five days of merciless fighting that has so far killed 200 people. The battle of Dbayeh, six miles north of Beirut, erupted Sunday after hundreds of tank-led troops of Gen. Michel Aoun advanced at dawn under artillery and rocket barrages to seize seven barracks of the Lebanese Forces militia.

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The LF barracks sit on a strategic hilltop overlooking Aoun's positions, within firing range of his troops' supply routes, and straddling supply lines between the LF port of Jounieh and east Beirut.

Fighting in east Beirut started last Wednesday after the 10,000-strong LF militia ignored an order to disband from Aoun, who commands 15,000 mainly Christian soldiers.

The Christian enclave is ringed by hundreds of mainly Muslim forces loyal to President Elias Hrawi and thousands of Syrian soldiers.

Aoun refused to submit to the internationally recognized Hrawi, whose forces did not intervene in the fighting.