Tragedy continues to mount in Lebanon even as President Elias Hrawi's government is working to unify Beirut - tearing down barriers, disbanding rival militias and seeking to free Western hostages.

As Hrawi was engaging in talks with Syrian President Hafez Assad about ways to end Lebanon's 15-year-old civil war, gunmen were killing Christian leader Dany Chamoun, his wife, and two young sons at their home in Baabda, a suburb of Beirut.The brutal slayings came only a week after Hrawi's army and Syrian troops crushed the mutiny of Christian Gen. Michel Aoun. Chamoun, the younger son of the late President Camille Chamoun, supported Aoun, whose headquarters were in Baabda.

Pro-Syrian groups blamed the killings on Christian warlord Samir Geagea, whose Lebanese forces militia fought an unsuccecssful four-month war with Aoun's troops for control of the Christian heartland northeast of Beirut early this year. Geagea denies any involvement.

In the meantime, Hrawi told Syrian state television that his government is determined to end the militia control of Beirut and that "opposition by the gun or the cannon will not be tolerated."

Yet hostages, both American and British, are being relayed from one part of Lebanon to another, and Syria maintains 40,000 troops in Lebanon under a 1976 Arab League mandate. Syria controls more than 70 percent of Lebanon's territory.

After many dispiriting years of fighting and assassinations, the efforts of both Hrawi and Assad to disband the rival militias should be applauded. But there remains great difficulty in dealing with hundreds if armed groups, each with its own agenda and hatreds.

As events of the past few days have proved, the situation in Lebanon is very tenuous and will not be easily resolved. Hopes in that beleaguered country have been raised and dashed too many times before.