Syrian forces unleashed broadsides of rockets at the coast north of Beirut on Friday to try to stop boats from rescuing beleaguered Christians, police said.
As the Christians fled their battered enclave, scores of rockets crashed around the Jounieh port and along a 12-mile stretch linking the harbor with Christian east Beirut.The sound of outgoing rockets shook Moslem West Beirut as Syrian gunners fired from truck-mounted BM-21 rocket launchers, which spit out 40 122mm projectiles in 20 seconds. The rockets damaged roads, buildings and shops, but no casualties were reported.
Christian army units under Gen. Michel Aoun did not return fire, a police spokesman said.
An unofficial cease-fire Wednesday halted rocket and artillery duels that had raged unabated for 42 days between Aoun's 20,000-member army and an alliance of Syrian troops and Druse Moslem militiamen.
There has been no explanation for the sudden halt in the bloodshed, which has killed 270 people and wounded 975 since March 8.
Kuwait's al-Qabas daily said several Arab states were seeking to convince Syria to accept the deployment of an Arab peacekeeping force before the Arab League foreign ministers meet in emergency session on Lebanon next week.
It said the force could number "several hundred officers and troops from six or seven Arab states." It did not name the countries.
Two boats operating from Cyprus have ferried more than 12,000 refugees from the besieged 310-square-mile Christian enclave in the past six weeks.
Thousands of other people have fled Moslem West Beirut to safer areas in east and south Lebanon, or left by road to Syria.
The police spokesman said the Syrian barrages Friday were a message that the ferry service should not resume.
The Larnaca Rose, one of the two boats making the nine-hour voyage, suspended the service two days ago after escaping a Syrian barrage. The Baroness M sailed from Larnaca at 9 a.m. Friday and was en route.
Cypriot shipping agents and officials at Jounieh said the Baroness M would not enter the harbor.
The ferries have been anchoring 10-15 miles off Jounieh to avoid shellfire. Small boats ferry the passengers in the dark from the port.
The Syrian barrages that began early Friday shook civilians out of bed and sent them back to bomb shelters.
Wafa Tabbara, a Moslem housewife, led her three children to the shelter in night clothes. She vowed to leave Beirut.
"I'm going to stay with friends in south Lebanon. There are no hotels in the south to accommodate us any more."