BEIRUT, NOV. 20 -- Syrian soldiers in charge of security at the American University of Beirut beat 37 students inside a men's dormitory in reaction to protests against new restrictions on access to the campus, police and university sources said today.
Students said seven of the 37 injured residents of the Penrose men's dormitory were hospitalized after Syrian soldiers hit them with rifle butts in the dormitory halls and their rooms. Some students had broken ribs, one had an ear injured and two had deep gashes in their necks.
Classes were suspended by students this morning after they held a sit-in at the main gate of the university defying steel-helmeted Syrian troops manning nearby checkpoints.
The clash added to the tension between Syrian troops and Lebanese following two bombings in the past week and the killing yesterday of two Syrian soliders.
Gates between the men's dormitory and the palm-lined campus have been locked, requiring a long walk around the sprawling grounds to get to classes.
When students got into a heated argument with Lebanese policemen in charge of the new rules, apparently after a student had scaled the gate, a demonstration of about 100 students erupted inside the campus.
Later, Syrian soldiers assisting Lebanese policemen, chased students to their rooms, got others out of bed and pinned several down by their arms before roughing them up, one student said.
In a clear expression of discontent, the university's board of deans called on those in charge of campus security not to enforce any measures involving individual members of the community without prior notification of the administration.
A joint force of Lebanese police and Syrian soldiers has been assigned to safeguard this important educational institution with a student body of 5,700. About 7,000 Syrian troops were deployed in strife-torn west Beirut in February to help police the Moslem-dominated sector of the Lebanese capital.
A statement issued by the board of deans said the incidents were triggered by dissatisfaction over recent security measures enforced on campus following an explosion last week at the American University Hospital that killed seven persons and injured 31.
"The board of deans recognizes that the enforcement of security measures should in no way infringe on the dignity and respect of members of the AUB community," the statement added.
Students living at the dorms come from various areas of Lebanon and practice different religions.
This was the second Syrian confrontation with the students. In February, troops stormed the dorms searching for weapons and rounded up 20 men. The students were later released.
A suitcase bomb ripped through the entrance of Beirut International Airport last week, killing five persons and injuring 73 others.
The fatal shooting of a Syrian Army officer and soldier in the west Beirut neighborhood of Karakon Druze was the latest in a series of incidents undermining Syrian military authority over west Beirut.