INTRODUCTION: Lebanese President Elias Sarkis ordered a ceasefire on Wednesday (8 April) in the fighting which has raged between Right Wing Christian militias and the All-Syrian Arab Defence Force (ADF).
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Background: INTRODUCTION: Lebanese President Elias Sarkis ordered a ceasefire on Wednesday (8 April) in the fighting which has raged between Right Wing Christian militias and the All-Syrian Arab Defence Force (ADF). The ceasefire - the eighteenth since the latest outbreak of violence began eight days ago - was ordered in the wake of Tuesday's (7 April) visit by Syrian Foreign Minister Abdel-Halim Khaddam. It followed contacts between Transport Minister Elias Al-Hrawi - a native of the town of Zahle, where some of the most bitter fighting has taken place - and the Right-Wing Christian Falangist Party.
SYNOPSIS: Fighting in the capital Beirut was reported to have ended within an hour of the announcement of the ceasefire. On Wednesday (8 April) morning fierce artillery exchanges erupted along the so-called "Green Line" which divides Beirut's predominantly Christian and Moslem sectors. Ten people were reported killed and 30 wounded in the morning's fighting. Cars were wrecked and buildings set ablaze.
The latest round of bloodshed has been described as the worst the country has seen since the outbreak of the civil war in 1975. It began eight days ago. Since then more than 200 people have died and 500 have been wounded. Both sides have blamed the other for starting the shooting.
The Right-Wing Falangist Party has accused the ADF of being an army of occupation, while Syrian Foreign Minister Khaddam has defended the ADF, accusing the Falangists of being the tools of Israel.
Zahle, the scene of some of the most bitter fighting, lies 48 kilometres (30 miles) west of Beirut, and dominates the fertile Bekaa valley. The city of 150,000 people is a Christian stronghold - and has been under siege for more than a week. The two commands the main Beirut-Damascus highway and is of strategic importance to the Syrians, who are insisting that the Falangist militia withdraw from the town and be replaced by Lebanese Army regulars under ADF control.