The Lebanese Army arrested scores of young Moslem gunmen today in continuing operations against the remaining pockets of militia resistance in the western sector of the capital and the neighborhoods south of it.
Army troops were in full control of intersections and public squares that had been taken over earlier this week by hooded militiamen, with rifles or rocket launchers slung over their shoulders and bandoliers of ammunition around their necks.
In a pointed public display today, soldiers carted off militiamen to prison in trucks whizzing along well-traveled boulevards. The men were blindfolded and their hands were shackled behind them.
Although scattered shells fell in the predominantly Christian eastern sector of Beirut today and tonight and the crackle of gunfire could be heard sporadically on the streets of predominantly Moslem west Beirut this morning, the day was relatively calm compared to the thunder of shells yesterday when Army tanks rolled through the neighborhoods of west Beirut to wrest control of key strongholds from the militia.
Residents gingerly came out on the streets again in the downtown Hamra district and Corniche Mazraa boulevard--areas that suffered the brunt of damage--to inspect the gaping holes in buildings and streets littered with glass and rubble.
There were widespread complaints by Moslems today that the Army used excessive force. Lebanese state radio carried comments of others praising the Army for the operation.
Reports in the Beirut press said Army casualties totaled 42 dead and 176 wounded in the four days of shelling and fighting in the capital that began on Sunday. There were no clear estimates of casualties among civilians or militias.
In Tripoli, Lebanon, leaders of the pro-Syrian National Salvation Front of Lebanon rejected Lebanese President Amin Gemayel's call for all factions in the country to join in a dialogue, Reuter reported.
Sources close to the front, which bitterly opposes the government of Gemayel, a Christian, said the leaders had reached a unanimous decision to reject his call for talks. The three key figures of the front are Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, Sunni Moslem former prime minister Rashid Karami and former president Suleiman Franjieh, a Maronite Christian and longtime foe of the Gemayel family.
In Damascus, Syria, today, Jumblatt denounced the government of Gemayel and said his forces now considered themselves "in a state of war" with the government.
Asked what his next move would be, Jumblatt responded: "Fighting, only fighting, with all we've got."
The Druze leader also warned U.S. Marines and French, Italian and British trooops in the 5,400-member multinational peace-keeping force here against getting involved in the Lebanese civil strife.
He said: "The mere fact that the Marines are providing the Lebanese factional Army with logistical support, expertise and training is enough for us to consider them enemies."
Shiite Moslem spiritual leader Mohammed Chamseddine went on state television and radio here in an effort to calm the situation. He warned his followers that continuation of troubles would destroy Lebanon.
But several other Moslem leaders complained about the Army operation. They claimed they had made an agreement with the government to get the militia off the streets before the Army mounted the operation.
Adding to the tense situation here was a vague report that Jumblatt's militiamen had massacred Christian villagers and the village priest in a Syrian-controlled hamlet in the mountains east of the capital.
The report was broadcast by Christian Phalangist radio, which said it came from a survivor. It said 40 persons had been knifed to death in the village of Bmariam and their houses had been burned. The broadcast did not say when the alleged massacre occurred.
Jumblatt discounted the report as another example of the "lies" put out by Christian Phalangists. The Associated Press later said their police sources confirmed the killings but said 24 people were murdered.