Battles for control of Palestinian camps south of the Lebanese capital raged on today and Nabih Berri, leader of the Shiite Moslem Amal militia, vowed not to let Palestinian guerrillas rebuild their base in Lebanon.
Palls of black smoke rose from the three main Palestinian refugee settlements of Sabra, Shatila and Burj al Barajinah on the edge of Beirut, where rival factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization fought together for the second day against Amal militiamen backed by Lebanese Army soldiers of the predominantly Shiite 6th Brigade.
At one point, Palestinian guerrillas broke out of the Sabra camp and seized four high-rise buildings, pouring heavy fire on the Amal fighters surrounding them. Amal is Lebanon's dominant Moslem military force.
In a switch of Lebanon's traditional sectarian fighting, Palestinian men, women and teen-agers used guns and grenades against the Shiites in the same camps that 2 1/2 years ago were the scene of massacres of Palestinians by Christian militias.
At least seven cease-fires were broken, and police reported that 121 persons were had been killed and 637 wounded since the battles began late Sunday.
The 6th Brigade was deployed in large numbers on the northern and western edges of the camps, but the crackle of machine-gun fire, crashing rockets and deafening salvos of mortar and antiaircraft fire echoing behind their lines at sundown indicated that the Palestinian guerrillas had not been crushed.
Amal took heavy losses and the Palestinians, although outnumbered by the Shiite militia, managed to burst through to the deserted neighborhoods of Fakhani and the Arab University during the day. They were subsequently beaten back to their shantytowns, from which they offered firm resistance.
Berri, who is also justice minister and state minister for south Lebanon, said at a packed press conference today he would never allow the Palestinians to return or permit renewed fighting in southern Lebanon. Berri, bleary-eyed and perspiring, said at least three times: "We will not permit their return," in reference to attempts by the Palestinians to stage a comeback in south Lebanon.
Lashing out against PLO leader Yasser Arafat and accusing him of dragging all of the Palestinian factions into combat, Berri stressed: "We will not stand for a return of the situation to what it was before 1982," when Israel invaded Lebanon and Palestinian guerrillas were forced to leave the country.
For many years Lebanon was dominated politically and economically by Christians and Sunni Moslems. But the number of Shiite Moslems has grown in recent years, and they have become more active politically and militarily since the Shiite Moslem revolution in Iran.
Before the Israeli invasion in 1982, Palestinian guerrilla groups were the major military power in Beirut and south Lebanon. Their massive infrastructure dwarfed the Lebanese state and local political and paramilitary groupings.
It was the Cite Sportive, a sports stadium at the entrance to the once crowded Sabra camp, that Israeli planes struck on June 4, 1982, just prior to the invasion of south Lebanon that led to the defeat and ouster of the PLO three months later. Once a heavily fortified Palestinian stronghold and training ground for guerrillas, the stadium is now a battered skeleton of a structure.
The camps are three clusters of mud shanties and modest cement houses on flattened red earth along the road leading out of Beirut and winding along the coast to the international airport. There the Palestinians in the early 1970s started recruiting Lebanese Moslem sympathizers for their cause.
The population of the camps was estimated at 50,000 in 1982. After repeated attacks during the invasion, and the massacres of Lebanese Moslems and Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila in September by Christian militias, the numbers declined to a few thousand. An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 lived there before the latest fighting.
Today, Shiite militiamen and Lebanese Army soldiers ringed the camps, but Palestinian gunners, mostly pro-Syrian followers of Arafat's rival Abu Musa, were entrenched in the eastern hills overlooking the airport and shantytowns.
The hills are controlled by Druze forces led by Tourism Minister Walid Jumblatt and his Progressive Socialist Party, who so far have maintained a neutral stance in the fighting.
Voice of the Mountain, the radio of the Progressive Socialist Party and the Druze community, today broadcast an appeal by the Palestinian Red Crescent to the Red Cross to help it evacuate the wounded.
The International Committee of the Red Cross appealed for a halt in the fighting around Bourj al Barajinah, saying they had managed to enter the camp only once in 36 hours.
"It is urgent to allow ambulances to enter as quickly as possible to transport the sick and wounded and to respect the Red Cross emblem and personnel," a Red Cross spokesman said. Combatants were seen shooting toward ambulances. Palestinian sources said some of the wounded guerrillas bled to death.
Berri said Amal had suffered 32 dead and 130 wounded in Monday's fighting. The Palestinians said 20 of their men had died. There were unconfirmed reports of Sunni Moslem militias and members of the pro-Syrian Baath Party joining the fight against Amal.
Berri accused Arafat of paving the way for the Palestinians' reentry into south Lebanon and charged the Palestinians with drawing the Israelis into the heart of Lebanon.
Despite Berri's tough rhetoric, political analysts here said he will not be able to hold out indefinitely on all fronts. Amal militias are scattered west of the Green Line dividing Beirut, along the coastal highway leading to Sidon and concentrated in south Lebanon.
There already is tension involving Amal militias in Sidon, mainly a Sunni town, where local Moslem forces have joined hands with the Syrian-sponsored Palestinian National Salvation Front. Farther south in Tyre, Amal fighters surround the refugee camps of Al Buss, Rashidiyeh and Bourj Chemali. Sources in Sidon said Amal was demanding that Palestinians get passes to leave or enter the camps