Tightening the Noose

The Israelis besiege Beirut to await a truce—or a showdown

As U.S. Special Envoy Philip Habib and leaders of Lebanon's warring factions sought desperately to concoct a truce, the roar of tanks and the thump of artillery fire threatened to make a mockery of their efforts. The 60,000-strong Israeli force, still trying to consolidate its control over southern Lebanon, advanced to the outskirts of Beirut. There the Israelis linked up with Christian Phalangist allies to impose a stranglehold over 6,000 Palestinian guerrillas and 1,500 Syrian soldiers trapped inside the western part of the city.

The encirclement began when a tentative cease-fire between the...

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