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Intense fighting erupts southeast of Beirut

Heavy machine-gun fire and loud explosions were heard southeast of Beirut as Druze supporters of the government and pro-Hezbollah militants fought each other despite a return to calm in the Lebanese capital.

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Fierce clashes erupted Sunday in mainly Druze areas southeast of Beirut between government supporters and rivals from the Hezbollah-led opposition, prompting appeals for calm from rival Druze leaders.

Heavy machine-gun fire and loud explosions echoed through several villages in the district of Aley, including Aaytat and Baysur. Intense fighting was also reported in Shwayfat.

Jumblatt, a member of the ruling bloc, urged his Druze rival Talal Arslan, allied with the Hezbollah-led opposition, to turn over areas in the mountaine witnessing heavy fighting under army rule to end hostilities.

"Civil peace and halting the destruction are paramount," Jumblatt told Lebanese television, addressing his supporters and urging them to lay down their weapons.

Arslan also called on opposition forces to stop the fighting.

"I call on fighters in the opposition to exert self-control and immediately ceasefire," he said.

Arslan also said he would ask army chief Michel Sleiman to create a strategy for the army to take control of the area.

The unrest came despite a return to calm in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, the scene of fierce sectarian fighting between mainly Sunni supporters of the ruling bloc and Shiite militants loyal to the opposition.

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