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In 1925, in Damascus, the Emir Hassan meets with two Western reporters to publicize the Syrian nation's determination to continue resisting French occupation. After several French soldiers are killed in yet another Syrian ambush, General LaSalle summons Colonel Louis Feroud, the head of military intelligence, and insists on harsh retaliatory measures against the Arabs. Louis resists the demand and, indicating that he has a lead on who might be selling illegal arms to the Syrians, persuades LaSalle to refrain from implementing drastic action. Later, Louis meets with local food merchants, including American Harry Smith and Balukjian, and accuses the men of profiteering. Louis has compiled a dossier on Harry, a former journalist and army volunteer who went AWOL to run a local gambling house and now runs a substantial black market trade. That night, Harry dines at the Moulin Rouge club and notices a beautiful woman, Violette, who is soon joined by Louis. Dining is abruptly and violently disrupted when a Syrian national sets off a grenade. Louis pursues the culprit while Harry aids Violette. Louis returns and escorts Violette to her apartment, where she complains bitterly about the rough and dangerous life in Damascus. When Louis declares his love for her, however, Violette rejects him coldly. Meanwhile, Harry descends into the city's ancient catacombs to rendezvous with the Emir's representative and discuss a delayed gun shipment. Unknown to Harry, his latest shipment has been intercepted by Louis. The shipment, loaded onto a simple handcart, is covered by a canvas sheet sprinkled with fresh apricots. Unperturbed by his missing shipment, Harry purchases a silver bracelet from a street vendor that he sends to Violette via his associate, Nasir Aboud. Balukjian, meanwhile, visits Louis, who accuses him of being the gunrunner, and in a panic, Balukjian offers to unearth proof of the identity of the real violator. While Harry pays a flirtatious call on Violette, Balukjian discovers from Nasir that Harry has an overstock of apricots. That evening, Louis and Violette quarrel over Harry's attentions and Louis pleads with her, then warns her to remain in the city, which is now quarantined due to continuing street violence. The next day after Balukjian reports to Louis, Balukjian visits Harry and makes a half-hearted attempt to warn him Louis knows about his activities. him. Later that night, Violette comes to Harry's apartment and begs him to take her to Cairo. They are interrupted when Nasir bursts in to reveal that Balukjian has betrayed Harry. While Harry hurriedly packs, Violette implores him to take her, and he grudgingly agrees. Harry pays a large sum to secure illegally seats on the last bus leaving the city, but when the bus develops engine problems, the delay gives French soldiers time to intercept it. Harry slips away, while Violette is caught. Harry seeks refuge in the catacombs, but is turned away as too dangerous by the Emir's representative. As the bus passengers are interrogated, Louis pulls Violette aside, but she refuses to discuss Harry. LaSalle then summons Louis and berates him for his misguided, non-violent methods and informs him that he is requesting armed reinforcements to shore up the city. Exposed by an informant, Harry is arrested and brought to Louis, who sentences him to execution unless he can get him an audience with the Emir. With the promise of an exit out of Damascus, Harry agrees. When Louis disappears into the Emir's headquarters, Harry apprises Violette, who remains indifferent. Later, LaSalle questions Harry, who ffers to carry money to the Emir in exchange for Louis. Deep within the catacombs, Harry finds Louis pleading with the Emir to consider a peaceful solution with the French. The Emir refuses, but releases Louis before accusing Harry of being a turncoat. Harry protests that his concerns are purely mercenary, and the Emir allows his departure but has him killed as he leaves the catacombs. As Louis walks back across the streets of Damascus, he realizes the steady gunfire has ceased, a sign that there may be hope for peace.