Rebel Christian Gen. Michel Aoun, blasted out of his headquarters by Syrian jets and artillery, surrendered Saturday after an 11-month mutiny against the Syrian-backed government.
The collapse of Aoun's campaign moved tortured Lebanon closer to an end of its 15-year-old civil war.Aoun fled to the French Embassy and ordered his troops to surrender to President Elias Hrawi's government. France granted him asylum.
Police said at least 100 Lebanese were killed and 750 wounded in Saturday's eight-hour bombardment and ground assault. More than 20 of the dead and 100 of the wounded were civilians. Police also reported dozens of Syrian casualties.
Lebanese Christian and Moslem leaders have stated their support for Hrawi, who has pledged to end the civil war that has killed 150,000 Lebanese. But deep divisions remain not only between Christians and Moslems - who control separate sectors of the divided capital - but among the various sects on both sides.
"Let us all rise above our hatreds and band together in a national unity that will definitely lead Lebanon to peace, security and stability," Hrawi said in a nationwide radio address.
Saturday night, the Cabinet ordered all crossings between Beirut's Moslem and Christian sectors promptly reopened.
Aoun's defeat could mean that the Green Line that has divided Beirut for 15 years now will be dismantled. But there was no word that the three-mile long demarcation line that has symbolized Lebanon's divisions was slated for early dismantling.
Moslem West Beirut, where Hrawi's government is based, erupted in jubilant gunfire as Aoun's surrender order was repeatedly broadcast by his radio station.
Aoun, 55, had opposed the government's peace plan, which gives the Moslem majority an equal share of power but gives no timetable for withdrawing the 40,000 Syrian troops. The troops are in Lebanon under a 1976 Arab League peacekeeping mandate.
After fighting battles with the Syrians, Moslems and a rival Christian militia, Aoun's territory had been reduced to an 80square-mile enclave north and east of Beirut.
The former army commander escaped an assassination attempt Friday night and had pledged to "die fighting." But he fled his headquarters during the onslaught by Syrian troops, jets and artillery and Lebanese forces loyal to Hrawi.
The three-pronged attack Saturday was spearheaded by two hours of Syrian air and artillery bombardment, with shells and rockets raining down on suburban Baabda, where Aoun's palace is, and Yarze at a rate of 200 per minute for two hours.
A cascade of flames and black smoke clouds shrouded the hilltop palace as Aoun raced in an armored personnel carrier to the French Embassy in east Beirut.
Hrawi's troops and the Syrians then pushed in, taking over the presidential palace and encircling the French Embassy compound, where Aoun remained.
French sources said arrangements were under way to whisk Aoun out of Lebanon with three top aides and their families.
A Lebanese government official said Hrawi wants a French guarantee that Aoun will return an estimated $75 million he is accused of taking from the treasury, and that he be banned from political activity for life.
In a brief radio statement to his 15,000 mostly Christian troops, Aoun said, "In light of the current combat and political conditions and to avoid bloodshed and further destruction, and to rescue what is left, I ask my chiefs of staff to take their orders henceforth from Gen. Emile Lahoud."
Lahoud commands Hrawi's 20,000-man army of mostly Moslem soldiers.
Aoun's fall consolidates Syria's hold on Lebanon. Syria, the main power-broker in Lebanon and an archrival of Iraq, is part of the U.S.-Arab alliance opposed to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
A U.S. State Department statement said the United States hopes the removal of Aoun "ends a sad chapter of Lebanon's history and that the Lebanese people can now move toward reconciliation and the rebirth of a united, sovereign and independent Lebanon."
Rival Christian militia leader Samir Geagea, who holds most of the 310-square-mile Christian enclave, pledged allegiance to Hrawi and promised to turn over his 6,000-member militia to Lahoud's army.
Sources close to Hrawi said his next step will be to move into the presidential palace in Baabda.
The sources said a government will be formed under Prime Minister Salim Hoss, a Sunni Moslem, to supervise the unification of Beirut. The city has been divided into Christian and Moslem sectors since 1975.
Hrawi was elected president Nov. 24, 1989, with a mandate to enforce the peace plan brokered by the Arab League.
After his election, Hrawi promptly dismissed Aoun as army commander and interim prime minister, but the general denounced Hrawi as a "Syrian puppet" and refused to leave the presidential palace.