BEIRUT, OCT. 19 -- More than 700 men were killed and more than 1,000 wounded in combat last week between Syrian and Lebanese soldiers and in revenge executions following the ouster of rebel Gen. Michel Aoun, according to Lebanese and pro-Syrian security sources and relief workers.
The revised death toll is considerably higher than what was reported immediately after the Oct. 8 battle. Earlier accounts put the number dead at fewer than 100 and the number wounded at about 250.
The fighting flared after Syrian forces, at the invitation of the Lebanese government of President Elias Hrawi, moved against Aoun, who considered himself the legitimate leader of Lebanon and had refused for 11 months to recognize Hrawi's authority.
Aoun, routed from the presidential palace on the outskirts of Beirut, fled to the French Embassy and told his followers to surrender.
Lebanese hospital and security officials said close to 400 Syrian soldiers were killed, many in an ambush, for which the Syrians are reported to have fiercely retaliated.
Local relief workers said most of the Syrian dead and wounded were carried away in trucks and helicopters to hospitals in Syria.
Hospital sources, doctors and relief officials said some -- but not all -- of the Lebanese troops who died were executed. But there were conflicting reports on the executions from pro-Syrian and Lebanese security officials.
France today urged U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar to investigate the alleged execution of Aoun's troops by Syrian forces after their surrender. The Lebanese government issued a communique denying the allegations of mass executions and saying that such reports were "absolutely baseless." Lebanese Prime Minister Selim Hoss said the French request "hurts Lebanon" and insisted the reports were "rumors."
Witnesses painted a gruesome picture of the Lebanese victims, telling of rotting bodies riddled with bullets in hospital morgues.
Nohad Kallab, a nurse in charge of the Baabda hospital, told journalists that at least 100 bodies of Aoun's fighters were received at the morgue on Saturday, many with their hands tied behind their backs and with bent knees, suggesting they had been summarily executed.
Amnesty International, the international human rights monitoring group, said today that Syrian troops might have killed up to 30 Aoun loyalists after he was ousted from power, Reuter reported. Amnesty called on the Lebanese government to set up an inquiry and urged Syria to investigate the roles of its troops in the alleged killings.
The ambush of the Syrians was said to have occurred as they advanced on Aoun's forces at a well-mined defense line on a narrow mountain road.
According to a Lebanese Shiite source, a Lebanese soldier fled on foot to a Moslem militia post in the southern suburbs and told of how Aoun's fighters had staged a mock surrender at Dahr al Wahsh. The Aoun loyalists were said to have waved a white flag to lure Syrian soldiers into an exposed section of the road, and then attacked, inflicting heavy losses.
Aoun's forces, attempting to resist the thrust of Syrian tanks and infantry, used heavy artillery to attack the Syrians, according to security officials.
Other sources said Aoun's fighters had been shot after they surrendered to Syrian troops, angered by the loss of hundreds of comrades who walked into minefields laid by Aoun's army. According to one security source, "Most of the Syrian casualties in Dahr al Wahsh had their legs cut off."
"One thing is sure. The Syrians took no prisoners of war in this battle. Every Lebanese soldier they found in the neighboring woods or further down the road was gunned down," one well-informed Lebanese security source said.
Syrian troops ransacked homes in the aftermath of the battles in search of Aoun loyalists in the township of Bsous and killed 14 men, residents there said.
Witnesses who visited at least two hospitals in Christian areas, the military hospital of Badaro and the Baabda government hospital, said they saw rotting unidentifiable bodies in plastic bags and scores of corpses with gunshot wounds in the head, face, chest and stomach Sunday.