BEIRUT, OCT. 13 -- Lebanon's rebellious Gen. Michel Aoun capitulated to Syria and the Lebanese government today by taking refuge in the French Embassy and telling his Christian troops to surrender after Syrian fighter-bombers blasted his shattered palace bunker.

The French government announced that it had granted Aoun political asylum, but Syria said the Christian general would be put on trial in Lebanon. News reports here gave conflicting accounts of the number of casualties today, with estimates ranging from 35 to 81 dead and at least 250 wounded.

Aoun, appointed Lebanon's interim leader in 1988, refused to recognize the authority of President Elias Hrawi who was elected by parliament last year.

The Christian general's ouster removed a major obstacle toward implementing a peace plan to end Lebanon's 15-year-old civil war brokered by the Arab League and approved last year by the country's parliament.

Aoun refused to accept that plan -- which stipulates an even distribution of power between Lebanon's Moslem and Christian communities -- and he insisted on staying in the presidential palace, despite demands from the Syrians and Hrawi's government that he leave.

"This is a historic moment, heralding the reunification of the Lebanese army and the return of peace to Lebanon," said Moslem Prime Minister Selim Hoss, who called on the Lebanese to close ranks behind Hrawi's government.

Aoun's removal gives a big boost to Syria in the regional see-saw of Arab politics and is a setback for Iraq, which had supplied Aoun with weapons last year and encouraged his defiance of Syrian President Hafez Assad.

At daybreak today, a formation of four Soviet-made Sukhoi fighter aircraft roared across the Syrian-Lebanese border and swooped low over the presidential palace, dive-bombing its battered remains. This was the first air attack in Lebanon by Syria, which in past years had been warned by Israel and the United States against any such air bombardment. It is widely believed here that the United States at least tacitly supported today's Syrian move.

The State Department said in Washington: "We hope this ends a sad chapter of Lebanon's history and that the Lebanese people can now move toward reconciliation and the rebirth of a united, sovereign and independent Lebanon."

Amid intense artillery cover from mountain ridges and strategic points surrounding Aoun's stronghold, thousands of Syrian and Lebanese troops advanced on five key fronts, taking over the palace at Baabda and the Defense Ministry at nearby Yarze by midday. The fierce shelling set fires raging in Christian areas.

Aoun had been in touch with French mediators since he escaped an assassination attempt Friday, and it was not clear whether he had taken sanctuary at the French diplomatic mission before the air raid began.

Lebanese troops loyal to Hrawi and his army commander, Emile Lahoud, ringed the French Embassy along with Syrian troops as the fate of the general was being debated.

Asked by reporters in Paris if Aoun would be granted asylum in France, French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas said: "Yes, it has been done." But the official Syrian news agency SANA reported that "the Lebanese legitimacy {Hrawi's government} rejected any form of bargaining with Aoun and insisted on trying him and his aides for the crimes they committed."

Some residents and soldiers in the Christian area were stunned when they heard Aoun's brief announcement that he had surrendered. Others poured into the streets to cheer and fire into the air in jubilation at his downfall.

"Because of the current political and military situation and to spare bloodshed and minimize the losses and to save what can be saved, I ask all army units to receive orders from General Emile Lahoud," Aoun said in a last statement broadcast by his radio station. The station later went off the air.

Lahoud, named the army's commander by Hrawi early this year, has led the 20,000 largely Moslem troops loyal to the president.

The Christian militia known as the Lebanese Forces, which had earlier thrown its lot in with Hrawi and accepted the Arab League reform package for Lebanon, was among the first to rejoice at the demise of its rival for leadership of the Christian community.

"Aoun rushed to the French Embassy and announced himself a loser. He surrendered," the militia said in a statement. Its commander, Samir Geagea, who had championed opposition to Syria in Lebanon before Aoun but only reluctantly joined his so-called "War of Liberation" against Damascus last year, told reporters: "Today a big joke and a big lie that has lasted for two years has come to an end."

The Syrian strike, which followed a request by Hrawi for assistance from Damascus to put an end to Aoun's rebellion, ended a two-week fuel and food blockade against Christian areas under the defiant general's control.

After a few hours of scattered resistance from the estimated 15,000 troops loyal to Aoun, the Hrawi government's forces advanced toward the Christian heartland, bringing Syrian soldiers into that enclave for the first time since the late 1970s.

Syrian troops and Lebanese army soldiers bulldozed 15-year-old demarcation lines separating east and west Beirut along the Galerie Semaan crossing, blocked since 1982, and began clearing land mines from deserted neighborhoods near the so-called "Green Line."

Until Friday, Aoun had vowed to his supporters that he would not retreat and that he would resist any Syrian offensive. Despised by Syria for his unyielding criticism of its presence in Lebanon, Aoun had nevertheless maintained support among some Christians through his emotional speeches about Lebanese sovereignty and freedom.

"He stirred certain feelings that had been suppressed in Lebanon after all these years of militia rule, but he did not know his limits," observed Francois Akl, editor in chief of Lebanon's An Nahar daily tonight.

Aoun's collapse will strengthen Syria's hand in controlling the government of Beirut, where there appear to be more posters of Syrian President Assad than in Damascus itself.

"Syria will now have a say in all matters and this country will have to dance to a certain tune to survive. If you want to write a letter to Lebanon now, you know where to send it," one Lebanese observer said.

The participation of Christian militiamen in the battles that erupted Friday and in the early bouts of shelling today demonstrated that Aoun's many opponents had melded into a single front, but the survival of the Lebanese Forces as an independent fighting force and paramilitary structure is not a certainty.

A long cabinet meeting tonight did not resolve the question of Aoun's fate.

A military plane was reportedly waiting in Larnaca, Cyprus, to take him to France, but Information Minister Edmond Rizk said the government had decided to refer the general's case to Lebanon's judicial authorities. Some militia leaders such as Nabih Berri, chief of the Shiite Moslem Amal movement, said that Aoun should be court-martialed.

Aoun, 54, was appointed army commander in 1984 by then-president Amin Gemayel.

Of modest origins, Aoun romanticized the military profession to his men and won their loyalty by rebuilding their self-esteem as soldiers in a country enfeebled by years of fighting that had involved Israeli, Syrian and Palestinian armies and an assortment of factional militias.

When parliament in 1988 failed to elect a successor to Gemayel, a Christian like all Lebanese presidents, the outgoing president named Aoun as interim prime minister. But Moslems leaders refused to recognize his cabinet, and set up a rival government in west Beirut under Hoss.

After Hrawi's election by parliament last year, the new president named Hoss, a Sunni Moslem, prime minister but the Christian general refused to step down.

Optimists among Lebanon's political elite hope that thislatest spell of fighting will give way to economic prosperity and the return of Western embassies, including that of the United States, driven out by Aoun last year.

The southern suburbs of Beirut, where Iranian-inspired fundamentalists and Hezbollah strongholds have festered for nearly a decade, are now tightly surrounded by Syrian troops.

By the middle of the afternoon, pedestrians were out strolling the streets of west Beirut, where mounds of malodorous garbage and fat rats still hold a commanding presence.

Now that Aoun is gone, one of the obstacles to Lebanon's recovery has been removed. But Beirutis caution there are no guarantees that Lebanon can return to what it was.