Lebanese army deploys near Palestinian camps PLO's Arafat backs disarmament accord

July 06, 1991

SIDON, Lebanon (AP) -- Lebanese troops took up positions near refugee camps in southern Lebanon yesterday after PLO guerrillas agreed to surrender their heavy weapons.

After four days of fighting, the Palestine Liberation Organization agreed Thursday to restrict its fighters to the Ein el-Hilweh and Mieh Mieh camps near Sidon and to move their heavy weapons out of the country.

Forty-six people were killed and 173 wounded in the fighting that began Monday when Palestinian guerrillas attacked army troops trying to deploy near Sidon.

From his headquarters in Tunis, Tunisia, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat declared full backing for the accord. The agreement is an important step in the Lebanese government's attempt to assert control over southern Lebanon after 16 years of civil war.

The accord meant an easing of the army's four-day siege of the refugee camps. Yesterday, trucks loaded with vegetables, meat and other food drove past army checkpoints to the camps, where about 60,000 Palestinian refugees live.

Defense Minister Michel Murr announced that the army had "completed the deployment" around Ein el-Hilweh and nearby Mieh Mieh.

"The troops moved into all positions on the camps' edges which were evacuated by the guerrillas before dawn," Mr. Murr said on state-run Radio Lebanon.

"We assure the Palestinians that the army will defend their security and protect them."

But the agreement brought angry declarations from Palestinian guerrillas watching the Lebanese army deploy.

"This is treason!" shouted one young fighter, trying to tear down a poster of Mr. Arafat from a wall in Ein el-Hilweh.

He was overpowered by two comrades, one of whom said: "Let's not make a scene in front of the army."

Helmeted Lebanese troops watched from a checkpoint 20 yardsaway.

The accord between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the government leaves the 5,000 Palestinian guerrillas equipped only with automatic rifles.

PLO officials in Tunis met to work out the transfer of the heavy arms, a PLO source said. It was unclear where the weapons would be sent.

The PLO has used the hilltop village strongholds as springboards for attacks on Israel for the past 20 years.

The PLO guerrillas were driven out of their strongholds in Beirut and southern Lebanon during Israel's 1982 invasion and lost their northern Lebanon power base to the Syrians the next year.

They gradually slipped back into Lebanon, however, transforming the Sidon-area camps into an independent entity.

President Elias Hrawi's government hopes that removing the weapons and restricting guerrilla activity will stop Israeli raids into southern Lebanon and pressure Israel to withdraw its 1,000 troops from the Lebanese border enclave it occupies.

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