Syrian gunners and their Moslem Lebanese allies bombarded Christian areas Saturday, ending a brief lull in the Beirut shelling war and sending thousands of people racing back to shelters.
Security sources said about 200 shells and rockets fell at the rate of three a minute on residential areas in Christian east Beirut and nearby areas.They said at least four people were killed, three of them when a shell hit their car on the coastal highway north of Beirut. Another three people were wounded.
Mainly Christian troops under army commander Maj. Gen. Michel Aoun quickly retaliated with a brief barrage against Moslem west Beirut, the sources said.
Shells and rockets set gasoline and kerosene tanks at the Dora depot ablaze on Monday, sparking an explosion on Thursday which injured about 100 people. The blast was heard 30 miles from Beirut.
Nearly 103 people have died and about 403 have been injured since March 14 in the worst fighting in five years between mostly Christian troops and Moslem militiamen backed by Syrian gunners.
The U.N. Security Council said Friday it supported Arab League efforts to end the fighting, which began after Christian army commander Maj. Gen. Michel Aoun blockaded ports that supply Lebanon's militias.
"The fire at the fuel depot is almost over and there is no chance now of another fire at any butane gas tank," said Civil Defense Chief Elie Hunein. "There is no danger to the public's safety and health."
Hunein said all the gas released by the explosion had dispersed, so it was safe for the tens of thousands of residents who were evacuated hours before the blast to return.
"For four days we couldn't move or sleep fearing the explosion," remembered Harout Kferian. "It was like standing in front of a firing squad waiting to be shot at any minute.
"We were asked to leave after midnight when the rumbling started, sounding like a volcano about to erupt," he said.
"Some people carried their children and ran barefoot, patients from a nearby hospital fled in their white gowns holding plasma bags in one hand and bandages in the other.
"It was like the movies, with thousands of panic-sticken people running in all directions away from death," he said.
One environmental expert said Thursday's explosion produced a cloud of acrid smoke covering about 55 square miles.