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Villages are devastated in latest Lebanon battle

Lebanon's embattled Christian militia coalition, vowing to fight on despite losing main strongholds in East Beirut, mounted an attack Saturday against an army base north of here where 500 troops loyal to Gen. Michel Aoun have been holding out. The battle for the base, at Adma near the port of Jounieh, was accompanied by heavy artillery and rocket fire that engulfed the Christian enclave.

As hundreds of militiamen advanced on Adma from three directions, artillery shells crashed in neighboring villages and towns, some striking mountain resorts like Bikfeiya and Beit Meri to the east.

There was also sporadic bombardment of East Beirut, where the militia, the Lebanese Forces, still holds pockets of resistance, especially in the Ashrafiyeh district.

There, the main hospital announced it was discontinuing services after most of it had been demolished by shellfire during more than two weeks of Christian civil war.

Militiamen erected a huge earth-mound near the hospital to protect their positions against possible attacks by the army, which gained control Friday of two suburbs in East Beirut _ Ain Rummaneh and Furn-Shubak _ after routing opponents in a two-day, tank-led assault.

Saturday, residents who spent 18 days crouching in basements and other shelters were able to come out for the first time.

Whole streets were in shambles, hundreds of cars were smashed, and almost every building showed shell scars.

Army bulldozers began clearing the roads of broken glass, fallen masonry and dangling power and telephone lines.

Police and hospital officials have updated the casualty figures from the nearly three weeks of fighting, reporting that 590 people have been killed and 2,200 wounded.