A Red Cross ambulance convoy entered one of the embattled refugee camps here today and evacuated 14 wounded Palestinians before renewed hostilities halted the rescue mission only 35 minutes after it began.
The visit to Burj al Barajinah, one of three camps attacked by the Shiite Moslem Amal militia a week ago, came amid unconfirmed reports here and elsewhere -- denied by the Shiites -- of atrocities against the Palestinians in the two other camps.
"Our people went in and saw hundreds of civilians sheltering in Haifa Hospital" in Burj al Barajinah, Sophie Martin, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, told United Press International. "There were wounded among them, but we don't know how many. Our people said supplies are very short and the medical situation and sanitary conditions inside the hospital are very bad."
Prime Minister Rashid Karami, in the most outspoken condemnation so far by a Lebanese official of the actions of the Shiite Amal militia, said today: "They are displacing people and then looting their houses and their belongings. Is this jihad Islamic holy war ?" Karami, a Sunni Moslem, reflected the Lebanese government's frustration at its inability to do anything about the fighting, saying, "We have all become helpless in the face of atrocities and injustices."
In Tunis, Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat described Amal as "Arab terrorists" completing the work of former Israeli defense minister Ariel Sharon -- a reference to the Israeli invasion of 1982.
Arafat and aides charged that Shiites had slain scores of Palestinian civilians in Sabra and elsewhere in Beirut, Reuter reported.
Arafat charged that in one incident in Sabra "they killed 60 of our people, including women and children."
The fighting around the Sabra and Shatila camps was less intense today than most of last week but broke out sporadically, indicating that Shiite fighters still had not rid the camps of guerrilla defenders.
Police put the known toll in the week of fighting at 369 dead and 1,693 wounded, The Associated Press reported, but the figures did not include casualties among those still in the camps.
The Shiite militia attacked the camps May 19, charging that the Palestinians were attempting to reestablish themselves militarily there and in southern Lebanon, a predominantly Shiite region.
The temporary lull arranged by Amal and Palestinian guerrilla representatives to permit the Red Cross to evacuate the wounded was interrupted repeatedly with mortars and sniping.
Accompanied by fighters from the Druze Progressive Socialist Party, Amal and the Lebanese Army, six Red Cross ambulances and other vehicles entered the camp.
Only half an hour later, after four ambulances had emerged and headed toward hospitals in the Druze-controlled mountains, Red Cross officials organizing the evacuation said it was being called off.
Amal said later that some of its fighters had demanded the release by Palestinian guerrillas of six Shiite prisoners before the evacuation could continue.
Martin said her staff would try again Tuesday.
Relief workers have expressed deep concern over their inability to perform normally after eight days of fighting. The Red Cross has managed to organize only three evacuations, removing 32 wounded.
Syria was still trying to mediate a lasting cease-fire with representatives from Amal and the National Palestinian Salvation Front, an alliance of Syrian-backed guerrilla groups that oppose Arafat.
A spokesman for the front, Omar Qatish, charged in a press conference in Algiers that Syria was supporting Amal and the Lebanese Army's 6th Brigade, a predominantly Shiite unit that pitched in to help crush the Palestinians in the camps.
Last week Damascus proposed that the 6th Brigade take charge of security in the camps and collect the guns of the guerrillas, an offer the Palestinians flatly rejected because they consider the brigade a party in the conflict.
A compromise deal suggested by Amal over the weekend called for an immediate cease-fire, withdrawal of Amal from Sabra, Shatila and the approaches to Burj al Barajinah and a security role for Lebanese gendarmes inside the camps.
The new element in the plan was that Druze members of the Progressive Socialist Party or the National Syrian Social Party should be charged with disarming the guerrillas, while the 6th Brigade should be in control of the entrances into the Palestinian camps. There was no indication that that solution was acceptable to all factions involved in the fighting.
There were signs of tension not only between Syria and its Palestinian allies but also between Syria and Libya.
Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi expressed support for the Palestinian struggle in Beirut and warned that control of Lebanon by Syria must not come "on the bodies of the Palestinians."
The Beirut daily newspaper An Nahar reported today that if all fails, Syria may intervene and put an end to hostilities in Lebanon by disarming all groups -- Christians, Moslems and Palestinians -- as part of an overall security plan.
Political observers said Syria was not likely to attempt that before the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon is completed -- a move expected this month.