Lebanese Civil War
|Lebanese Civil War|
|Part of the Arab Cold War, Arab–Israeli conflict, and the Iran–Israel proxy conflict|
The Martyr's Square statue in Beirut, 1982, during the civil war
Tigers Militia (until 1980)
Islamic Unification Movement (from 1982)
Marada Brigades (left LF in 1978; aligned with Syria)
|Commanders and leaders|
Dany Chamoun †
Tony Frangieh †
Timothy J. Geraghty
|25,000 troops (1976)|| 1,200 troops
The Lebanese Civil War (Arabic: الحرب الأهلية اللبنانية, romanized: Al-Ḥarb al-Ahliyyah al-Libnāniyyah) was a multifaceted civil war in Lebanon, lasting from 1975 to 1990 and resulting in an estimated 120,000 fatalities. As of 2012, approximately 76,000 people remain displaced within Lebanon. There was also an exodus of almost one million people from Lebanon as a result of the war.
Before the war, Lebanon was multi-sectarian, with Sunni Muslims and Christians being the majorities in the coastal cities, Shia Muslims being mainly based in the south and the Beqaa Valley to the east, and with the mountain populations being mostly Druze and Christian. The government of Lebanon had been run under a significant influence of the elites among the Maronite Christians. The link between politics and religion had been reinforced under the mandate of the French colonial powers from 1920 to 1943, and the parliamentary structure favored a leading position for its Christian population. However, the country had a large Muslim population and many pan-Arabist and left-wing groups opposed the pro-western government. The establishment of the state of Israel and the displacement of a hundred thousand Palestinian refugees to Lebanon during the 1948 and 1967 exoduses contributed to shifting the demographic balance in favor of the Muslim population. The Cold War had a powerful disintegrative effect on Lebanon, which was closely linked to the polarization that preceded the 1958 political crisis, since Maronites sided with the West while leftist and pan-Arab groups sided with Soviet-aligned Arab countries.
Fighting between Maronite and Palestinian forces (mainly from the Palestine Liberation Organization) began in 1975, then Leftist, pan-Arabist and Muslim Lebanese groups formed an alliance with the Palestinians. During the course of the fighting, alliances shifted rapidly and unpredictably. Furthermore, foreign powers, such as Israel and Syria, became involved in the war and fought alongside different factions. Peacekeeping forces, such as the Multinational Force in Lebanon and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, were also stationed in Lebanon.
The 1989 Taif Agreement marked the beginning of the end of the fighting. In January 1989, a committee appointed by the Arab League began to formulate solutions to the conflict. In March 1991, parliament passed an amnesty law that pardoned all political crimes prior to its enactment. In May 1991, the militias were dissolved, with the exception of Hezbollah, while the Lebanese Armed Forces began to slowly rebuild as Lebanon's only major non-sectarian institution. Religious tensions between Sunnis and Shias remained after the war.
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In 1860 a civil war between Druze and Maronites erupted in the Ottoman Mutasarrifate of Mount Lebanon, which had been divided between them in 1842. The war resulted in the massacre of about 10,000 Christians and at least 6,000 Druzes. The 1860 war was considered by the Druze as a military victory and a political defeat.
World War I was hard for the Lebanese. While the rest of the world was occupied with the World War, the people in Lebanon were suffering from a famine that would last nearly four years. With the defeat and dissolution of the Ottoman Empire (1908–1922), Turkish rule ended.
France took control of the area under the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon under the League of Nations. The French created the state of Greater Lebanon as a safe haven for the Maronites, but included a large Muslim population within the borders. In 1926, Lebanon was declared a republic, and a constitution was adopted. However, the constitution was suspended in 1932. Various factions sought unity with Syria, or independence from the French. In 1934, the country's first (and only to date) census was conducted.
World War II and the 1940s brought great change to Lebanon and the Middle East. Lebanon was promised independence, which was achieved on 22 November 1943. Free French troops, who had invaded Lebanon in 1941 to rid Beirut of the Vichy French forces, left the country in 1946. The Maronites assumed power over the country and economy. A parliament was created in which both Muslims and Christians each had a set quota of seats. Accordingly, the President was to be a Maronite, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the Speaker of Parliament a Shia Muslim.
The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine in late 1947 led to civil war in Palestine, the end of Mandatory Palestine, and the Israeli Declaration of Independence on 14 May 1948. With nationhood, the ongoing civil war was transformed into a state conflict between Israel and the Arab states, the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. All this led to Palestinian refugees crossing the border into Lebanon. Palestinians would go on to play a very important role in future Lebanese civil conflicts, while the establishment of Israel, radically changed the region around Lebanon.
In July 1958, Lebanon was threatened by a civil war between Maronite Christians and Muslims. President Camille Chamoun had attempted to break the stranglehold on Lebanese politics exercised by traditional political families in Lebanon. These families maintained their electoral appeal by cultivating strong client-patron relations with their local communities. Although he succeeded in sponsoring alternative political candidates to enter the elections in 1957, causing the traditional families to lose their positions, these families then embarked upon a war with Chamoun, referred to as the War of the Pashas.
In previous years, tensions with Egypt had escalated in 1956 when the non-aligned President, Camille Chamoun, did not break off diplomatic relations with the Western powers that attacked Egypt during the Suez Crisis, angering Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. This was during the Cold War and Chamoun has often been called pro-Western, though he had signed several trade deals with the Soviet Union (see Gendzier). However, Nasser had attacked Chamoun because of his suspected support for the U.S. led Baghdad Pact. Nasser felt that the pro-western Baghdad Pact posed a threat to Arab Nationalism. However, president Chamoun looked to regional pacts to ensure protection from foreign armies: Lebanon historically had a small cosmetic army that was never effective in defending Lebanon's territorial integrity, and this is why in later years the PLO guerrilla factions had found it easy to enter Lebanon and set up bases, as well as take over army barracks on the border with Israel as early as 1968. Early skirmishes which saw the army not only lose control over its barracks to the PLO but also lost many soldiers. Even prior to this, president Chamoun was aware of the country's vulnerability to outside forces.
But his Lebanese pan-Arabist Sunni Muslim Prime Minister Rashid Karami supported Nasser in 1956 and 1958. Lebanese Muslims pushed the government to join the newly created United Arab Republic, a country formed out of the unification of Syria and Egypt, while the majority of Lebanese and especially the Maronites wanted to keep Lebanon as an independent nation with its own independent parliament. President Camille feared the toppling of his government and asked for U.S. intervention. At the time the United States was engaged in the Cold War. Chamoun asked for assistance proclaiming that Communists were going to overthrow his government. Chamoun was responding not only to the revolt of former political bosses, but also to the fact that both Egypt and Syria had taken the opportunity to deploy proxies into the Lebanese conflict. Thus the Arab National Movement (ANM), led by George Habash and later to become the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and a faction of the PLO, were deployed to Lebanon by Nasser. The ANM were a clandestine militia implicated in attempted coups against both the Jordanian monarchy and the Iraqi president throughout the 1950s at Nasser's bidding. The founding members of Fatah, including Yasser Arafat and Khalil Wazir also flew to Lebanon to use the insurrection as a means by which a war could be fomented toward Israel. They participated in the fighting by directing armed forces against the government security in the city of Tripoli according to Yezid Sayigh's work.
In that year, President Chamoun was unable to convince the Maronite army commander, Fuad Chehab, to use the armed forces against Muslim demonstrators, fearing that getting involved in internal politics would split his small and weak multi-confessional force. The Phalange militia came to the president's aid instead to bring a final end to the road blockades which were crippling the major cities. Encouraged by its efforts during this conflict, later that year, principally through violence and the success of general strikes in Beirut, the Phalange achieved what journalists[who?] dubbed the "counterrevolution." By their actions the Phalangists brought down the government of Prime Minister Karami and secured for their leader, Pierre Gemayel, a position in the four-man cabinet that was subsequently formed.
However, estimates of the Phalange's membership by Yezid Sayigh and other academic sources put them at a few thousand. Non-academic sources tend to inflate the Phalanges membership. What should be kept in mind was that this insurrection was met with widespread disapproval by many Lebanese who wanted no part in the regional politics and many young men aided the Phalange in their suppression of the insurrection, especially as many of the demonstrators were little more than proxy forces hired by groups such as the ANM and Fatah founders as well as being hired by the defeated parliamentary bosses.
During the 1960s Lebanon was relatively calm, but this would soon change. Fatah and other Palestinian Liberation Organization factions had long been active among the 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanese camps. Throughout the 1960s, the center for armed Palestinian activities had been in Jordan, but they were forced to relocate after being evicted by King Hussein during the Black September in Jordan. Fatah and other Palestinian groups had attempted to mount a coup in Jordan by incentivizing a split in the Jordanian army, something that the ANM had attempted to do a decade earlier by Nasser's bidding. Jordan, however, responded and expelled the forces into Lebanon. When they arrived they created "a State within the State". This action was not welcomed by the Lebanese government and this shook Lebanon's fragile sectarian climate.
Solidarity to the Palestinians was expressed through the Lebanese Sunni Muslims but with the aim to change the political system from one of consensus amongst different sects, towards one where their power share would increase. Certain groups in the Lebanese National Movement wished to bring about a more secular and democratic order, but as this group increasingly included Islamist groups, encouraged to join by the PLO, the more progressive demands of the initial agenda was dropped by January 1976. Islamists did not support a secular order in Lebanon and wished to bring about rule by Muslim clerics. These events, especially the role of Fatah and the Tripoli Islamist movement known as Tawhid, in changing the agenda being pursued by many groups, including Communists. This ragtag coalition has often been referred to as left-wing, but many participants were actually very conservative and had religious elements that did not share any broader ideological agenda; rather, they were brought together by the short-term goal of overthrowing the established political order, each motivated by their own grievances.
These forces enabled the PLO / Fatah (Fatah constituted 80% of the membership of the PLO and Fatah guerrillas controlled most of its institutions now) to transform the Western Part of Beirut into its stronghold. The PLO had taken over the heart of Sidon and Tyre in the early 1970s, it controlled great swathes of south Lebanon, in which the indigenous Shiite population had to suffer the humiliation of passing through PLO checkpoints and now they had worked their way by force into Beirut. The PLO did this with the assistance of so-called volunteers from Libya and Algeria shipped in through the ports it controlled, as well as a number of Sunni Lebanese groups who had been trained and armed by PLO/ Fatah and encouraged to declare themselves as separate militias. However, as Rex Brynen makes clear in his publication on the PLO, these militias were nothing more than "shop-fronts" or in Arabic "Dakakin" for Fatah, armed gangs with no ideological foundation and no organic reason for their existence save the fact their individual members were put on PLO/ Fatah payroll.
The strike of fishermen at Sidon in February 1975 could also be considered the first important episode that set off the outbreak of hostilities. That event involved a specific issue: the attempt of former President Camille Chamoun (also head of the Maronite-oriented National Liberal Party) to monopolize fishing along the coast of Lebanon. The injustices perceived by the fishermen evoked sympathy from many Lebanese and reinforced the resentment and antipathy that were widely felt against the state and the economic monopolies. The demonstrations against the fishing company were quickly transformed into a political action supported by the political left and their allies in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The state tried to suppress the demonstrators, and a sniper reportedly killed a popular figure in the city, the former Mayor of Sidon, Maarouf Saad.
Many non-academic sources claim a government sniper killed Saad; however, there is no evidence to support such a claim, and it appears that whoever had killed him had intended that what began as a small and quiet demonstration to evolve into something more. The sniper targeted Saad right at the end of the demonstration as it was dissipating. Farid Khazen, sourcing the local histories of Sidon academics and eyewitnesses, gives a run-down of the puzzling events of the day that based on their research. Other interesting facts that Khazen reveals, based on the Sidon academic's work including that Saad was not in dispute with the fishing consortium made up of Yugoslav nationals. In fact, the Yugoslavian representatives in Lebanon had negotiated with the fisherman's union to make the fisherman shareholders in the company; the company offered to modernize the Fisherman's equipment and buy their catch, give their fisherman's a union and annual subsidy. Saad, as a union representative (and not the mayor of Sidon at the time as many erroneous sources claim), was offered a place on the company's board too. There has been some speculation that Saad's attempts to narrow the differences between the fishermen and the consortium, and his acceptance of a place on the board made him a target of attack by the conspirator who sought a full conflagration around the small protest. The events in Sidon were not contained for long. The government began to lose control of the situation in 1975.
Political groups and militias
In the run-up to the war and its early stages, militias tried to be politically-orientated non-sectarian forces, but due to the sectarian nature of Lebanese society, they inevitably gained their support from the same community as their leaders came from. In the long run almost all militias openly identified with a given community. The two main alliances were the Lebanese Front, consisting of nationalist Maronites who were against Palestinian militancy in Lebanon, and the Lebanese National Movement, which consisted of pro-Palestinian Leftists. The LNM dissolved after the Israeli invasion of 1982 and was replaced by the Lebanese National Resistance Front, known as Jammoul in Arabic.
Throughout the war most or all militias operated with little regard for human rights, and the sectarian character of some battles, made non-combatant civilians a frequent target.
As the war dragged on, the militias deteriorated ever further into mafia-style organizations with many commanders turning to crime as their main occupation rather than fighting. Finances for the war effort were obtained in one or all of three ways:
- Outside support: Notably from Syria or Israel. Other Arab governments and Iran also provided considerable funds. Alliances would shift frequently.
- Local population: The militias, and the political parties they served, believed they had legitimate moral authority to raise taxes to defend their communities. Road checkpoints were a particularly common way to raise these (claimed) taxes. Such taxes were in principle viewed as legitimate by much of the population who identified with their community's militia. However, many militia fighters would use taxes/customs as a pretext to extort money. Furthermore, many people did not recognize militia's tax-raising authority, and viewed all militia money-raising activities as mafia-style extortion and theft.
- Smuggling: During the civil war, Lebanon turned into one of the world's largest narcotics producers, with much of the hashish production centered in the Bekaa valley. However, much else was also smuggled, such as guns and supplies, all kinds of stolen goods, and regular trade – war or no war, Lebanon would not give up its role as the middleman in European-Arab business. Many battles were fought over Lebanon's ports, to gain smugglers access to the sea routes.
As central government authority disintegrated and rival governments claimed national authority, the various parties/militias started to create comprehensive state administrations in their territory. These were known as cantons, Swiss-like autonomous provinces. The best known was "Marounistan," which was the Phalangist/Lebanese Forces territory. The Progressive Socialist Party's territory was the "Civil Administration of the Mountain," commonly known as the Jebel-el-Druze (a name which had formerly been used for a Druze state in Syria). The Marada area around Zghorta was known as the "Northern Canton."
Maronite Christian militias acquired arms from Romania and Bulgaria as well as from West Germany, Belgium and Israel, and drew supporters from the larger Maronite population in the north of the country, they were generally right-wing in their political outlook, and all the major Christian militias were Maronite-dominated, and other Christian sects played a secondary role.
Initially, the most powerful of the Maronite militias was the National Liberal Party which is also known as Ahrar who were politically led by the legendary president of Lebanon Camille Chamoun and military led by Dany Chamoun (who was assassinated in the 1990), the military wing of the Kataeb Party or Phalangists, which remained under the leadership of the charismatic William Hawi until his death. Few years later, the Phalange militia, became under the command of Bachir Gemayel, merged with several minor groups (Al-Tanzim, Guardians of the Cedars, Lebanese Youth Movement, Tyous Team of Commandos) and formed a professional army called the Lebanese Forces (LF). With the help of Israel, the LF established itself in Maronite-dominated strongholds and rapidly transformed from an unorganized and poorly equipped militia into a fearsome army that had now its own armor, artillery, commando units (SADM), a small Navy, and a highly advanced Intelligence branch. Meanwhile, in the north, the Marada Brigades served as the private militia of the Franjieh family and Zgharta, which became allied with Syria after breaking with the Lebanese Front in 1978. The Lebanese Forces split with the Tigers in 1980. In 1985, under the leadership of Geagea and Hobeika, they split entirely from the Phalangists and other groups to form an independent militia which was the dominant force in most Maronite areas. The Command Council then elected Hobeika to be LF President, and he appointed Geagea to be LF Chief of Staff. In January 1986, Geagea and Hobeika's relationship broke down over Hobeika's support for the pro-Syrian Tripartite Accord, and an internal civil war began. The Geagea-Hobeika Conflict resulted in 800 to 1000 casualties before Geagea secured himself as LF leader and Hobeika fled. Hobeika formed the Lebanese Forces – Executive Command which remained allied with Syria until the end of the war.
The Tigers Militia was the military wing of the National Liberal Party (NLP/ AHRAR) during the Lebanese Civil War. The Tigers formed in Saadiyat in 1968, as Noumour Al Ahrar (نمور الأحرار, 'Tigers of the Liberals'), under the leadership of Camille Chamoun. The group took its name from his middle name, Nemr, meaning 'tiger'. Trained by Naim Berdkan, the unit was led by Chamoun's son Dany Chamoun. After the start Civil War in 1975, the Tigers fought the Lebanese National Movement (LNM) and its Palestinian allies, and were the main party fighting in war of tall el zaatar against the Palestinians.
Although several Lebanese militias claimed to be secular, most were little more than vehicles for sectarian interests. Still, there existed a number of non-religious groups, primarily but not exclusively of the left and/or Pan-Arab right.
Examples of this were the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) and the more radical and independent Communist Action Organization (COA). Another notable example was the pan-Syrian Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), which promoted the concept of Greater Syria, in contrast to Pan-Arab or Lebanese nationalism. The SSNP was generally aligned with the Syrian government, although it did not ideologically approve of the Ba'athist government (however, this has changed recently, under Bashar Al-Assad, the SSNP having been allowed to exert political activity in Syria as well). The multi-confessional SSNP was led by Inaam Raad, a Catholic and Abdallah Saadeh, a Greek Orthodox. It was active in North Lebanon (Koura and Akkar), West Beirut (around Hamra Street), in Mount Lebanon (High Metn, Baabda, Aley and Chouf), in South Lebanon (Zahrani, Nabatieh, Marjayoun and Hasbaya) and the Beqqa Valley (Baalbeck, Hermel and Rashaya).
Another secular group was the South Lebanon Army (SLA), led by Saad Haddad. The SLA operated in South Lebanon in co-ordination with the Israelis, and worked for the Israeli-backed parallel government, called "the Government of Free Lebanon." The SLA began as a split from the Army of Free Lebanon, a Maronite faction within the Lebanese Army. Their initial goal was to be a bulwark against PLO raids and attacks into the Galilee, although they later focused on fighting Hezbollah. The officers tended to be Christians with a strong commitment to fighting the SLA's enemies, while most of the ordinary soldiers were Shia Muslims who frequently joined for the wages and were not always committed to the SLA fight against the PLO and Hezbollah. The SLA continued to operate after the civil war but collapsed after the Israeli army withdrew from South Lebanon in 2000. Many SLA soldiers fled to Israel, while others were captured in Lebanon and prosecuted for collaboration with Israel and treason.
Two competing Ba'ath movements were involved in the early stages of the war: a nationalist one known as "pro-Iraqi" headed by Abdul-Majeed Al-Rafei (Sunni) and Nicola Y. Ferzli (Greek Orthodox Christian), and a Marxist one known as "pro-Syrian" headed by Assem Qanso (Shiite).
The Kurdistan Workers' Party at the time had training camps in Lebanon, where they received support from the Syrians and the PLO. During the Israeli invasion, all PKK units were ordered to fight the Israeli forces. Eleven PKK fighters died in the conflict. Mahsum Korkmaz was the commander of all PKK forces in Lebanon.
The Armenian Marxist-Leninist militia ASALA was founded in PLO-controlled territory of West Beirut in 1975. This militia was led by revolutionary fighter Monte Melkonian and group-founder Hagop Hagopian. Closely aligned with the Palestinians, ASALA fought many battles on the side of the Lebanese National Movement and the PLO, most prominently against Israeli forces and their right-wing allies during the 1982 phase of the war. Melkonian was field commander during these battles, and assisted the PLO in its defense of West Beirut.
The Palestinian movement relocated most of its fighting strength to Lebanon at the end of 1970 after being expelled from Jordan in the events known as Black September. The umbrella organization, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)—by itself undoubtedly Lebanon's most potent fighting force at the time—was little more than a loose confederation, but its leader, Yassir Arafat, controlled all factions by buying their loyalties.[neutrality is disputed] Arafat allowed little oversight to be exercised over PLO finances as he was the ultimate source for all decisions made in directing financial matters. Arafat's control of funds, channeled directly to him by the oil producing countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Libya meant that he had little real functional opposition to his leadership and although ostensibly rival factions in the PLO existed, this masked a stable loyalty towards Arafat so long as he was able to dispense financial rewards to his followers and members of the PLO guerrilla factions. Unlike the Lebanese people, the Palestinians were not sectarian. Christian Palestinians supported Arab Nationalism during the civil war in Lebanon and fought against the Maronite Lebanese militias.
The PLO mainstream was represented by Arafat's powerful Fatah, which waged guerrilla warfare but did not have a strong core ideology, except the claim to seek the liberation of Palestine. As a result, they gained broad appeal with a refugee population with conservative Islamic values (who resisted secular ideologies). The more ideological factions, however, included Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and its splinter, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).
Fatah was instrumental in splitting the DF from the PFLP in the early days of the PFLPs formation so as to diminish the appeal and competition the PFLP posed to Fatah. Lesser roles were played by the fractious Palestinian Liberation Front (PLF) and another split-off from the PFLP, the Syrian-aligned Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC). To complicate things, the Ba'athist countries of Syria and Iraq both set up Palestinian puppet organizations within the PLO. The as-Sa'iqa was a Syrian-controlled militia, paralleled by the Arab Liberation Front (ALF) under Iraqi command. The Syrian government could also count on the Syrian brigades of the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA), formally but not functionally the PLO's regular army. Some PLA units sent by Egypt were under Arafat's command.
The small Druze sect, strategically and dangerously seated on the Chouf in central Lebanon, had no natural allies, and so were compelled to put much effort into building alliances. Under the leadership of the Jumblatt family, first Kamal Jumblatt (the LNM leader) and then his son Walid, the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) (الحزب التقدمي الاشتراكي, al-hizb al-taqadummi al-ishtiraki) served as an effective Druze militia, building excellent ties to the Soviet Union mainly, and with Syria upon the withdrawal of Israel to the south of the country. However, many Druze in Lebanon at the time were members of the non-religious party, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.
Under the leadership of Jumblatt, the PSP was a major element in the Lebanese National Movement (LNM) which supported Lebanon's Arab identity and sympathized with the Palestinians. It built a powerful private army, which proved to be one of the strongest in the Lebanese Civil War of 1975 to 1990. It conquered much of Mount Lebanon and the Chouf District. Its main adversaries were the Maronite Christian Phalangist militia, and later the Lebanese Forces militia (which absorbed the Phalangists). The PSP suffered a major setback in 1977, when Kamal Jumblatt was assassinated. His son Walid succeeded him as leader of the party. From the Israeli withdrawal from the Chouf in 1983 to the end of the civil war, the PSP ran a highly effective civil administration, the Civil Administration of the Mountain, in the area under its control. Tolls levied at PSP militia checkpoints provided a major source of income for the administration.
The PSP played an important role in the so-called "Mountain War" under the lead of Walid Jumblatt: after the Israeli Army retreated from the Lebanese Mountain, important battles took place between the PSP and Maronite militias. PSP armed members were accused of several massacres that took place during that war.
The PSP is still an active political party in Lebanon. Its current leader is Walid Jumblatt. It is in practice led and supported mostly by followers of the Druze faith.
Shi'a Muslim groups
The Shi'a militias were slow to form and join in the fighting. Initially, many Shi'a had sympathy for the Palestinians and a few had been drawn to the Lebanese Communist Party, but after 1970s Black September, there was a sudden influx of armed Palestinians to the Shi'a areas. South Lebanon's population is mainly Shi'a and the Palestinians soon set up base there for their attacks against the Israelis. The Palestinian movement quickly squandered its influence with the Shi'ite, as radical factions ruled by the gun in much of Shi'ite-inhabited southern Lebanon, where the refugee camps happened to be concentrated, and the mainstream PLO proved either unwilling or unable to rein them in.
The Palestinian radicals' secularism and behaviour had alienated the traditionalist Shi'ite community; the Shi'a did not want to pay the price for the PLO's rocket attacks from Southern Lebanon. The PLO created a state within a state in South Lebanon and this instigated a fury among Lebanon's Shi'a, who feared a retaliation from the Israelis to their native land in the South. The Shiʿa predominated in the area of southern Lebanon that in the 1960s became an arena for the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The state of Lebanon, which always avoided provoking Israel, simply abandoned southern Lebanon. Many of the people there migrated to the suburbs of Beirut, which are known as "poverty belts". The young Shi'a migrants, who had not participated in the prosperity of prewar Beirut, joined many Lebanese and some Palestinian organizations. After many years without their own independent political organizations, there suddenly arose Musa Sadr's Amal Movement in 1974–75. Its Islamist ideology immediately attracted the unrepresented people, and Amal's armed ranks grew rapidly. Amal fought against the PLO in the early days. Later a hard line faction would break away to join with Shi'a groups fighting Israel to form the organization Hezbollah, also known as the National Resistance, who to this day remains the most powerful and organised force of Lebanon and the Middle East. Hezbollah was created as a faction split from Amal Movement and an Islamist organization which deemed Amal to be too secular. Hezbollah's original aims included the establishment of an Islamic state in Lebanon.
There was great support by Iran during the Lebanese Civil War for Shi'ite factions, Amal Movement and Hezbollah. Hezbollah and its leaders were inspired by Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution and therefore in 1982 emerged as a faction set on resisting the Israeli occupation of Lebanon, and its forces were trained and organized by a contingent of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Support was greatly met by both military training and funding support.
The Lebanese Alawites, followers of a sect of Shia Islam, were represented by the Red Knights Militia of the Arab Democratic Party, which was pro-Syrian due to the Alawites being dominant in Syria, and mainly acted in Northern Lebanon around Tripoli.
Sunni Muslim groups
Some Sunni factions received support from Libya and Iraq, and a number of minor militias existed due to a general reluctance on the part of Sunnis to join military organisations throughout the civil war. The more prominent groups were secular and holding a Nasserist ideology, or otherwise having pan-Arab and Arab nationalist leanings. A few Islamist ones emerged at later stages of the war, such as the Tawhid Movement that took its base in Tripoli, and the Jama'a Islamiyya, which gave a Lebanese expression of the Muslim Brotherhood in terms of political orientations and practice. The main Sunni-led organization was the al-Murabitun, a major west-Beirut based force. Al-Murabitoun, led by Ibrahim Kulaylat, fought with the Palestinians against the Israelis during the invasion of 1982. There is also the Tanzim al-Nassiri in Sidon that was formed through the followers of Maaruf Saad, and who rallied later behind his son Mustafa Saad, and now are led by Usama Saad. The Sixth of February Movement was another pro-Palestinian Nasserist minor militia that sided with the PLO in the War of the Camps in the 1980s.
The Armenian parties tended to be Christian by religion and left-wing in outlook, and were therefore uneasy committing to either side of the fighting. As a result, the Armenian parties attempted, with some success, to follow a policy of militant neutrality, with their militias fighting only when required to defend the Armenian areas. However, it was not uncommon for individual Armenians to choose to fight in the Lebanese Forces, and a small number chose to fight on the other side for the Lebanese National Movement/Lebanese National Resistance Front.
The Beirut suburbs of Bourj Hamoud and Naaba were controlled by the Armenian Dashnak party. In September 1979, these were attacked by the Kataeb in an attempt to bring all Christian areas under Bashir Gemayel's control. The Armenian Dashnak militia defeated the Kataeb attacks and retained control. The fighting led to 40 deaths.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation in Lebanon refused to take sides in the conflict though its armed wing the Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide and the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia did carry out assassinations and operations during the war.
|13 April 1975||Battles between the PLO and the Kataeb Christian militia spread to parts of Beirut, especially the downtown area which is totally destroyed leading to the demarcation line between the two parts of the city. Many militias are formed on both sides and hundreds of civilians are killed or taken hostage. The government divides and the army is split. The militias usurp many functions of the state.|
|January 1976||The Karantina massacre and the Damour massacre|
|May 1976||Elias Sarkis is elected president.|
|Summer 1976||The Tel al-Zaatar massacre occurs. The Syrian army intervenes for the first time.|
|October 1976||An Arab League summit occurs to instill a ceasefire backed by the deployment of peacekeeping troops.|
|February–March 1978||The Hundred Days' War begins and the ceasefire ends. The United Nations sends troops and foreign powers deploy aid to the two sides of the war.|
|February 1979||The Iranian revolution occurs helping to radicalize the Shiite movement in Lebanon.|
|July 1980||Bashir Gemayel, leader of the Kataeb militia, unites all the Christian militias by force, putting in place the political party, Lebanese Forces.|
|Summer, 1982||The 1982 Lebanon War occurs as well as the Siege of Beirut. Bashir Gemayel is elected president on 23 August and assassinated 14 September. Soon after the Sabra and Shatila massacre occurs. The Israelis withdraw. Amin Gemayel is elected president.|
|April 1983||1983 United States embassy bombing occurs.|
|Summer 1983||The Mountain War begins.|
|October 1983||1983 Beirut barracks bombing occurs.|
|February 1984||The Lebanese army, after controlling Beirut since Israeli withdrawal, is expelled from West Beirut, accused of partisanship with the Lebanese forces, mass arrests, etc.|
|February 1985||The Israelis withdraw from Sidon but remain in the south. Armed resistance to Israeli occupation intensifies. Especially from Hezbollah.
The War of the Camps arises.
|March 1985||Assassination attempt on Hezbollah leader, Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.|
|June, December 1987||Rashid Karami is assassinated on 1 June 1987. The First Intifada begins and the anger toward Israel in Lebanon increases. There are hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.|
|September 1988||Amin Gemayel's presidential term expires and he appoints the commander of the army, General Michel Aoun as interim prime minister.|
|14 March 1989||General Aoun declares war on the Syrian presence in Lebanon. After seven months of shelling a ceasefire is negotiated by the Arab League.|
|October–November 1989||The Taif Agreement occurs. René Moawad is elected president and is assassinated 17 days later. Elias Hrawi is then elected. General Aoun denounces the legitimacy of these presidencies and a new commander of the army is appointed.|
|30 January 1990||Heavy fighting begins between the Lebanese army still under General Aoun's control and the Lebanese Forces. As well as fighting between Amal and Hezbollah and continued resistance to Israeli occupation and Israeli reprisal raids.|
|13 October 1990||General Aoun is forced out of the presidential palace and goes into exile. The October 13 massacre occurs. Selim Hoss assumes command of the country except for the part still occupied by Israel. The armed forces are reunited under a central command.|
|24 December 1990||A National Reconciliation is formed under the leadership of Omar Karami. The Taif Agreement is for the first time being put into practice.|
|26 August 1991||Parliament passes the law of General Amnesty.|
|Summer 1992||The first parliamentary elections in twenty years take place.|
First phase, 1975–77
Sectarian violence and massacres
Throughout the spring of 1975, minor clashes in Lebanon had been building up towards all-out conflict, with the Lebanese National Movement (LNM) pitted against the Phalange, and the ever-weaker national government wavering between the need to maintain order and cater to its constituency. On the morning of 13 April 1975, unidentified gunmen in a speeding car fired on a church in the Christian East Beirut suburb of Ain el-Rummaneh, killing four people, including two Maronite Phalangists. Hours later, Phalangists led by the Gemayels killed 30 Palestinians traveling in Ain el-Rummaneh. Citywide clashes erupted in response to this "Bus Massacre". The Battle of the Hotels began in October 1975, and lasted until March in 1976.
On 6 December 1975, a day later known as Black Saturday, the killings of four Phalange members led Phalange to quickly and temporarily set up roadblocks throughout Beirut at which identification cards were inspected for religious affiliation. Many Palestinians or Lebanese Muslims passing through the roadblocks were killed immediately. Additionally, Phalange members took hostages and attacked Muslims in East Beirut. Muslim and Palestinian militias retaliated with force, increasing the total death count to between 200 and 600 civilians and militiamen. After this point, all-out fighting began between the militias.
On 18 January 1976 an estimated 1,000–1,500 people were killed by Maronite forces in the Karantina Massacre, followed two days later by a retaliatory strike on Damour by Palestinian militias. These two massacres prompted a mass exodus of Muslims and Christians, as people fearing retribution fled to areas under the control of their own sect. The ethnic and religious layout of the residential areas of the capital encouraged this process, and East and West Beirut were increasingly transformed into what was in effect Christian and Muslim Beirut. Also, the number of Maronite leftists who had allied with the LNM, and Muslim conservatives with the government, dropped sharply, as the war revealed itself as an utterly sectarian conflict. Another effect of the massacres was to bring in Yassir Arafat's well-armed Fatah and thereby the Palestine Liberation Organisation on the side of the LNM, as Palestinian sentiment was by now completely hostile to the Maronite forces.
On 22 January 1976, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad brokered a truce between the two sides, while covertly beginning to move Syrian troops into Lebanon under the guise of the Palestine Liberation Army in order to bring the PLO back under Syrian influence and prevent the disintegration of Lebanon. Despite this, the violence continued to escalate. In March 1976, Lebanese President Suleiman Frangieh requested that Syria formally intervene. Days later, Assad sent a message to the United States asking them not to interfere if he were to send troops into Lebanon.
On 8 May 1976, Elias Sarkis, who was supported by Syria, defeated Frangieh in a presidential election held by the Lebanese Parliament. However, Frangieh refused to step down. On 1 June 1976, 12,000 regular Syrian troops entered Lebanon and began conducting operations against Palestinian and leftist militias. This technically put Syria on the same side as Israel, as Israel had already begun to supply Maronite forces with arms, tanks, and military advisers in May 1976. Syria had its own political and territorial interests in Lebanon, which harbored cells of Sunni Islamists and anti-Ba'athist Muslim Brotherhood.
Since January, the Tel al-Zaatar refugee camp in East Beirut had been under siege by Maronite Christian militias. On 12 August 1976, supported by Syria, Maronite forces managed to overwhelm the Palestinian and leftist militias defending the camp. The Christian militia massacred 1,000–1,500 civilians, which unleashed heavy criticism against Syria from the Arab world.
On 19 October 1976, the Battle of Aishiya took place, when a combined force of PLO and a Communist militia attacked Aishiya, an isolated Maronite village in a mostly Muslim area. The Artillery Corps of the Israel Defense Forces fired 24 shells (66 kilograms of TNT each) from US-made 175-millimeter field artillery units at the attackers, repelling their first attempt. However, the PLO and Communists returned at night, when low visibility made Israeli artillery far less effective. The Maronite population of the village fled. They returned in 1982.
In October 1976, Syria accepted the proposal of the Arab League summit in Riyadh. This gave Syria a mandate to keep 40,000 troops in Lebanon as the bulk of an Arab Deterrent Force charged with disentangling the combatants and restoring calm. Other Arab nations were also part of the ADF, but they lost interest relatively soon, and Syria was again left in sole control, now with the ADF as a diplomatic shield against international criticism. The Civil War was officially paused at this point, and an uneasy quiet settled over Beirut and most of the rest of Lebanon. In the south, however, the climate began to deteriorate as a consequence of the gradual return of PLO combatants, who had been required to vacate central Lebanon under the terms of the Riyadh Accords.
During 1975–1977, 60,000 people were killed.
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The nation was now effectively divided, with southern Lebanon and the western half of Beirut becoming bases for the PLO and Muslim-based militias, and the Christians in control of East Beirut and the Christian section of Mount Lebanon. The main confrontation line in divided Beirut was known as the Green Line.
In East Beirut, in 1976, Maronite leaders of the National Liberal Party (NLP), the Kataeb Party and the Lebanese Renewal Party joined in the Lebanese Front, a political counterpoint to the LNM. Their militias – the Tigers, Kataeb Regulatory Forces (KRF) and Guardians of the Cedars – entered a loose coalition known as the Lebanese Forces, to form a military wing for the Lebanese Front. From the very beginning, the Kataeb and its Regulatory Forces' militia, under the leadership of Bashir Gemayel, dominated the LF. In 1977–80, through absorbing or destroying smaller militias, he both consolidated control and strengthened the LF into the dominant Maronite force.
In March the same year, Lebanese National Movement leader Kamal Jumblatt was assassinated. The murder was widely blamed on the Syrian government. While Jumblatt's role as leader of the Druze Progressive Socialist Party was filled surprisingly smoothly by his son, Walid Jumblatt, the LNM disintegrated after his death. Although the anti-government pact of leftists, Shi'a, Sunni, Palestinians and Druze would stick together for some time more, their wildly divergent interests tore at opposition unity. Sensing the opportunity, Hafez al-Assad immediately began splitting up both the Maronite and Muslim coalitions in a game of divide and conquer.
Second phase, 1977–82
Hundred Days War
The only political person who remained in East Beirut Achrafiyeh all the 100 days was the president Camille Chamoun, and refused to get out of the area. It was fought between the Maronite, and the Syrian troops of the Arab Deterrent Force (ADF). The Syrian troops shelled the Christian Beirut area of Achrafiyeh for 100 days. The conflict resulted in Syrian Army's expulsion from East Beirut, the end of Arab Deterrent Force's task in Lebanon and revealed the true intentions of the Syrians in Lebanon. The conflict resulted in 160 dead and 400 injured.
1978 South Lebanon conflict
PLO attacks from Lebanon into Israel in 1977 and 1978 escalated tensions between the countries. On 11 March 1978, eleven Fatah fighters landed on a beach in northern Israel and proceeded to hijack two buses full of passengers on the Haifa – Tel-Aviv road, shooting at passing vehicles in what became known as the Coastal Road massacre. They killed 37 and wounded 76 Israelis before being killed in a firefight with Israeli forces. Israel invaded Lebanon four days later in Operation Litani. The Israeli Army occupied most of the area south of the Litani River. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 425 calling for immediate Israeli withdrawal and creating the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), charged with attempting to establish peace.
Israeli forces withdrew later in 1978, but retained control of the southern region by managing a 12-mile (19 km) wide security zone along the border. These positions were held by the South Lebanon Army (SLA), a Christian-Shi'a militia under the leadership of Major Saad Haddad backed by Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister, Likud's Menachem Begin, compared the plight of the Christian minority in southern Lebanon (then about 5% of the population in SLA territory) to that of European Jews during World War II. The PLO routinely attacked Israel during the period of the cease-fire, with over 270 documented attacks. People in Galilee regularly had to leave their homes during these shellings. Documents captured in PLO headquarters after the invasion showed they had come from Lebanon. Arafat refused to condemn these attacks on the grounds that the cease-fire was only relevant to Lebanon. In April 1980 the presence of UNIFIL soldiers in the buffer zone led to the At Tiri incident. On 17 July 1981, Israeli aircraft bombed multi-story apartment buildings in Beirut that contained offices of PLO associated groups. The Lebanese delegate to the United Nations Security Council claimed that 300 civilians had been killed and 800 wounded. The bombing led to worldwide condemnation, and a temporary embargo on the export of U.S. aircraft to Israel. In August 1981, defense minister Ariel Sharon began to draw up plans to attack PLO military infrastructure in West Beirut, where PLO headquarters and command bunkers were located.
Day of the Long Knives
The Safra massacre, known as the Day of the Long Knives, occurred in the coastal town Safra (north of Beirut) on 7 July 1980, as part of Bashir Gemayel's effort to consolidate all the Maronite fighters under his leadership in the Lebanese Forces. The Phalangist forces launched a surprise attack on the Tigers Militia, which claimed the lives of 83 people, most of whom were normal citizens and not from the militia.
The Zahleh campaign took place between December 1980 and June 1981. During the seven-month period, the city of Zahleh endured a handful of political and military setbacks. The opposing key players were on the one side, the LF (Lebanese Forces) aided by Zahlawi townspeople, and on the other side, the Syrian Army Forces also known as ADF Arab Deterrent Force, aided by some PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) factions.
Demographically, Zahleh is one of the largest predominantly Christian towns in Lebanon. The Bekaa valley, which spans the length of the Syrian border, is adjacent to the town's outskirts. Given Zahle's close proximity to the Bekaa Valley, the Syrian Army Forces feared a potential alliance between Israel and the LF in Zahle. This potential alliance would not only threaten the Syrian military presence in the Bekaa valley, but was regarded as a national security threat from the Syrians' point of view, given the close proximity between Zahle and the Damascus highway.
Consequently, as a clampdown strategy, the Syrian forces controlled major roads leading in and out of the city and fortified the entire Valley. Around December 1980, tensions increased between Zahlawi Lebanese Forces and Syrian backed Leftist militants. From April to June 1981, throughout the four-month period, a handful of LF members, aided by Zahlawi Local Resistance, confronted the Syrian military and defended the city from Syrian intrusion and potential invasion. Nearly 1,100 people were killed on both sides during the conflict. This campaign paved the way for Bachir to reach the presidency in 1982.
Third phase, 1982–84
Israeli invasion of Lebanon
On 3 June 1982, the Abu Nidal Organization, a splinter group of Fatah, attempted to assassinate Israeli ambassador Shlomo Argov in London. Israel carried out a retaliatory aerial attack on PLO and PFLP targets in West Beirut that led to over 100 casualties. The PLO responded by launching a counterattack from Lebanon with rockets and artillery, which constituted a clear violation of the ceasefire.
Meanwhile, on 5 June, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 508 calling for "all the parties to the conflict to cease immediately and simultaneously all military activities within Lebanon and across the Lebanese-Israeli border and no later than 0600 hours local time on Sunday, 6 June 1982".
Alliance with Maronite militias and invasion
Israel launched Operation Peace for Galilee on 6 June 1982, attacking PLO bases in Lebanon. Israeli forces quickly drove 25 miles (40 km) into Lebanon, moving into East Beirut with the tacit support of Maronite leaders and militia. When the Israeli cabinet convened to authorize the invasion, Sharon described it as a plan to advance 40 kilometers into Lebanon, demolish PLO strongholds, and establish an expanded security zone that would put northern Israel out of range of PLO rockets. Israeli chief of staff Rafael Eitan and Sharon had already ordered the invading forces to head straight for Beirut, in accord with Sharon's plan from September 1981. The UN Security Council passed a further resolution on 6 June 1982, United Nations Security Council Resolution 509 demanding that Israel withdraw to the internationally recognized boundaries of Lebanon. On 8 June 1982, the United States vetoed a proposed resolution demanding that Israel withdraw.
Siege of Beirut
By 15 June 1982, Israeli units were entrenched outside Beirut. The United States called for PLO withdrawal from Lebanon, and Sharon began to order bombing raids of West Beirut, targeting some 16,000 PLO fedayeen who had retreated into fortified positions. Meanwhile, Arafat attempted through negotiations to salvage politically what was clearly a disaster for the PLO, an attempt which eventually succeeded once the multinational force arrived to evacuate the PLO.
Negotiations for a cease-fire
On 26 June, a UN Security Council resolution was proposed that "demands the immediate withdrawal of the Israeli forces engaged round Beirut, to a distance of 10 kilometers from the periphery of that city, as a first step towards the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon, and the simultaneous withdrawal of the Palestinian armed forces from Beirut, which shall retire to the existing camps;" the United States vetoed the resolution because it was "a transparent attempt to preserve the PLO as a viable political force," However, President Reagan made an impassioned plea to Prime Minister Begin to end the siege. Begin called back within minutes informing the President that he had given the order to end the attack.
Finally, amid escalating violence and civilian casualties, Philip Habib was once again sent to restore order, which he accomplished on 12 August on the heels of IDF's intensive, day-long bombardment of West Beirut. The Habib-negotiated truce called for the withdrawal of both Israeli and PLO elements, as well as a multinational force composed of U.S. Marines along with French and Italian units that would ensure the departure of the PLO and protect defenseless civilians.
The first troops of a multinational force landed in Beirut on 21 August 1982 to oversee the PLO withdrawal from Lebanon and U.S. mediation resulted in the evacuation of Syrian troops and PLO fighters from Beirut. The agreement also provided for the deployment of a multinational force composed of U.S. Marines along with French, Italian and British units. However, Israel reported that some 2,000 PLO militants were hiding in Palestinian refugee camps on the outskirts of Beirut.
Sabra and Shatila massacre
On 16–18 September 1982, Lebanese Phalangists (allied with the Israeli Defense Force) killed up to 3,500 Lebanese and Palestinian Shiite civilians in the Shatila refugee camp and the adjacent Sabra neighborhood of Beirut. The Israelis had ordered their Phalangist allies to clear out PLO fighters. Soldiers loyal to Phalangist leader Elie Hobeika began slaughtering civilians while Israeli forces blocked exits from Sabra and Shatila and illuminated the area with flares. IDF officials not only failed to act to stop the killings, but also prevented the escapees from fleeing the Phalangists and aided them latter by lighting the camps during night at their request.
Ten days later, the Israeli government set up the Kahan Commission to investigate the circumstances of the Sabra and Shatila massacre. In 1983, the commission published its findings that then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon was personally responsible for the massacre and should resign. Under pressure, Sharon resigned as defense minister but remained in the government as a minister without portfolio.
17 May Agreement
On 17 May 1983, Lebanon's Amine Gemayel, Israel, and the United States signed an agreement on Israeli withdrawal conditioned on the departure of Syrian troops, reportedly after the US and Israel exerted severe pressure on Gemayel. The agreement stated that "the state of war between Israel and Lebanon has been terminated and no longer exists." Thus, the agreement in effect amounted to a peace agreement with Israel, and was additionally seen by many Lebanese Muslims as an attempt for Israel to gain a permanent hold on the Lebanese South. The 17 May Agreement was widely portrayed in the Arab world as an imposed surrender, and Amine Gemayel was accused of acting as a Quisling President; tensions in Lebanon hardened considerably. Syria strongly opposed the agreement and declined to discuss the withdrawal of its troops, effectively stalemating further progress.
In August 1983, Israel withdrew from the Chouf District (southeast of Beirut), thus removing the buffer between the Druze and the Maronite militias and triggering another round of brutal fighting, the Mountain War. Israel did not intervene. By September 1983, the Druze had gained control over most of the Chouf, and Israeli forces had pulled out from all but the southern security zone.
In September 1983, following the Israeli withdrawal and the ensuing battles between the Lebanese Army and opposing factions for control of key terrain during the Mountain War, the Reagan White House approved the use of naval gunfire to subdue Druze and Syrian positions in order to give support to and protect the Lebanese Army, which was under severe duress.
Bombings against US targets and foundation of Hezbollah
In 1982, the Islamic Republic of Iran established a base in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. From that base, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) "founded, financed, trained and equipped Hezbollah to operate as a proxy army" for Iran. The IRGC organized Hezbollah by drafting members from Shi'a groups resisting the Israeli occupation and from the main Shi'a movement, Nabih Berri's Amal Movement. The group found inspiration for its revolutionary Islamism in the Iranian Revolution of 1979. With Iranian sponsorship and a large pool of disaffected Shi'a refugees from which to draw support, Hezbollah quickly grew into a strong, armed force.
On 18 April 1983, a suicide bombing attack at the U.S. Embassy in West Beirut killed 63, beginning a series of attacks against U.S. and Western interests in Lebanon.
On 23 October 1983, a devastating Iranian-sponsored suicide bombing targeted the barracks of U.S. and French forces in Beirut, killing 241 American and 58 French servicemen. On 18 January 1984, American University of Beirut President Malcolm H. Kerr was murdered.
Anti-U.S. attacks continued even after U.S. forces withdrew, including a bombing of the U.S. embassy annex in East Beirut on 20 September 1984, which killed 24, including 2 U.S. servicemen. The situation became serious enough to compel the U.S. State Department to invalidate U.S. passports for travel to Lebanon in 1987, a travel ban that was only lifted 10 years later in 1997.
February 6 Intifada
The virtual collapse of the Lebanese Army in February 1984, following the defection of many Muslim and Druze units to militias, was a major blow to the government. The events are named the February 6 uprising in West Beirut or the February 6 Intifada, which transformed the West Beirut into a playing field for armed gangs.
With the U.S. Marines looking ready to withdraw, Syria and Muslim groups stepped up pressure on Gemayel. On 5 March 1984, the Lebanese Government canceled the 17 May Agreement, and the Marines departed a few weeks later.
The violence ended in December 1985 with tripartite Damascus agreement of December 1985 between the Lebanese Forces, Amal and the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP).
Fourth phase 1984–90
War of the Camps
Between 1985 and 1989, sectarian conflict worsened as various efforts at national reconciliation failed. Heavy fighting took place in the War of the Camps of 1985–86 as a Syrian-backed coalition headed by the Amal militia sought to rout the PLO from their Lebanese strongholds. Many Palestinians died, and Sabra and Shatila and Bourj el-Barajneh refugee camps were largely destroyed.
On 8 August 1985 a summit was held in Damascus with President Amin Gemayel, Prime Minister Rachid Karami and Syrian President Hafez Assad attempting to end the fighting between Christian and Druze militias. There followed a series of car bombs in Beirut which were seen as intended to thwart any agreement. On 14 August a car exploded in a Christian district control by the Lebanese Forces. On 17 August another exploded beside a supermarket, also in a district under LF control. 55 people were killed. Two days later 2 car bombs went off in a Druze and a Shi'ite district of Beirut. The following day another car bomb exploded in Tripoli. An unknown group, the "Black Brigades", claimed responsibility. The violence quickly escalated with extensive artillery exchanges. It is estimated that in two weeks 300 people were killed. On 15 September fighting broke out in Tripoli between Alawite and Sunni militias. 200,000 people fled the city. The harbour district was heavily bombarded. The arrival of the Syrian army a week later ended the violence which left 500 killed.
In late December 1985 an agreement was reached between the Syrians and their Lebanese allies to stabilise the situation in Lebanon. It was opposed by President Amin Gemayel and the Phalagist Party. On 15 January 1986 the pro-Syrian leader of the Lebanese Forces, Elie Hobeika, was overthrown. Shortly afterwards, 21 January, a car bomb killed 20 people in Furn ash-Shebbak, East Beirut. Over the next 10 days a further 5 smaller explosions occurred close to Phalagist targets.
Major combat returned to Beirut in 1987, when Palestinians, leftists, and Druze fighters allied against Amal, eventually drawing further Syrian intervention. Violent confrontation flared up again in Beirut in 1988 between Amal and Hezbollah. Hezbollah swiftly seized command of several Amal-held parts of the city, and for the first time emerged as a strong force in the capital.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Rashid Karami, head of a government of national unity set up after the failed peace efforts of 1984, was assassinated on 1 June 1987. The assassination was accused on Samir Geagea in coordination with the Lebanese army, but the charge could not be proven. President Gemayel's term of office expired in September 1988. Before stepping down, he appointed another Maronite Christian, Lebanese Armed Forces Commanding General Michel Aoun, as acting Prime Minister, contravening the National Pact. Conflict in this period was also exacerbated by increasing Iraqi involvement, as Saddam Hussein searched for proxy battlefields for the Iran–Iraq War. To counter Iran's influence through Amal and Hezbollah, Iraq backed Maronite groups; Saddam Hussein helped Aoun and the Lebanese Forces led by Samir Geagea between 1988 and 1990.
Muslim groups rejected the violation of the National Pact and pledged support to Selim al-Hoss, a Sunni who had succeeded Karami. Lebanon was thus divided between a Maronite military government in East Beirut and a civilian government in West Beirut.
On 8 March 1989 Aoun started the blockade of illegal ports of Muslim militias, and this touched off bloody exchanges of artillery fire that lasted for half a year. Six days later he launched what he termed a "war of liberation" against the Syrians and their Lebanese militia allies. As a result, Syrian pressure on his Lebanese Army and militia pockets in East Beirut grew. Still, Aoun persisted in the "war of liberation", denouncing the government of Hafez al-Assad and claiming that he fought for Lebanon's independence. While he seems to have had significant Maronite support for this, he was still perceived as a sectarian leader among others by the Muslim population, who distrusted his agenda. He was also plagued by the challenge to his legitimacy put forth by the Syrian-backed West Beirut government of Selim al-Hoss. Militarily, this war did not achieve its goal, and instead caused considerable damage to East Beirut and provoked massive emigration among the Christian population.
The Taif Agreement of 1989 marked the beginning of the end of the fighting. In January of that year, a committee appointed by the Arab League, chaired by Kuwait and including Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Morocco, began to formulate solutions to the conflict. This led to a meeting of Lebanese parliamentarians in Ta'if, Saudi Arabia, where they agreed to the national reconciliation accord in October. The agreement provided a large role for Syria in Lebanese affairs. Returning to Lebanon, they ratified the agreement on 4 November and elected Rene Mouawad as President the following day. Military leader Michel Aoun in East Beirut refused to accept Mouawad, and denounced the Taif Agreement.
Mouawad was assassinated 17 days later in a car bombing in Beirut on 22 November as his motorcade returned from Lebanese independence day ceremonies. He was succeeded by Elias Hrawi (who remained in office until 1998). Aoun again refused to accept the election, and dissolved Parliament.
Infighting in East Beirut
On 16 January 1990, General Aoun ordered all Lebanese media to cease using terms like "President" or "Minister" to describe Hrawi and other participants in the Taif government. The Lebanese Forces, which had grown into a rival power broker in the Christian parts of the capital, protested by suspending all its broadcasts. Tension with the LF grew, as Aoun feared that the militia was planning to link up with the Hrawi administration.
On 31 January 1990, Lebanese Army forces clashed with the LF, after Aoun had stated that it was in the national interest for the government to "unify the weapons" (i.e. that the LF must submit to his authority as acting head of state). This brought fierce fighting to East Beirut, and although the LF made initial advances, the intra-Maronite warfare eventually sapped the militia of most of its fighting strength.
In August 1990, the Lebanese Parliament, which did not heed Aoun's order to dissolve, and the new president agreed on constitutional amendments embodying some of the political reforms envisioned at Taif. The National Assembly expanded to 128 seats and was for the first time divided equally between Christians and Muslims.
As Saddam Hussein focused his attention on Kuwait, Iraqi supplies to Aoun dwindled.
On 13 October 1990, Syria launched a major operation involving its army, air force (for the first time since Zahle's siege in 1981) and Lebanese allies (mainly the Lebanese Army led by General Émile Lahoud) against Aoun's stronghold around the presidential palace, where hundreds of Aoun supporters were killed. It then cleared out the last Aounist pockets, cementing its hold on the capital. Aoun fled to the French Embassy in Beirut, and later into exile in Paris. He was not able to return until May 2005.
William Harris claims that the Syrian operation could not take place until Syria had reached an agreement with the United States, that in exchange for support against the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War, it would convince Israel not to attack Syrian aircraft approaching Beirut. Aoun claimed in 1990 that the United States "has sold Lebanon to Syria."
End of the war
In March 1991, parliament passed an amnesty law that pardoned all political crimes prior to its enactment. The amnesty was not extended to crimes perpetrated against foreign diplomats or certain crimes referred by the cabinet to the Higher Judicial Council. In May 1991, the militias (with the important exception of Hezbollah) were dissolved, and the Lebanese Armed Forces began to slowly rebuild themselves as Lebanon's only major non-sectarian institution.
Some violence still occurred. In late December 1991 a car bomb (estimated to carry 220 pounds of TNT) exploded in the Muslim neighborhood of Basta. At least thirty people were killed, and 120 wounded, including former Prime Minister Shafik Wazzan, who was riding in a bulletproof car.
The post-war occupation of the country by Syrian Arab Republic was particularly politically disadvantageous to the Maronite population as most of their leadership was driven into exile, or had been assassinated or jailed.
In 2005, the assassination of Rafik Hariri sparked the Cedar Revolution leading to Syrian military withdrawal from the country. Contemporary political alliances in Lebanon reflect the alliances of the Civil War as well as contemporary geopolitics. The March 14 Alliance brings together Maronite-dominated parties (Lebanese Forces, Kataeb, National Liberal Party, National Bloc, Independence Movement) and Sunni-dominated parties (Future Movement, Islamic Group) whereas the March 8 Alliance is led by the Shia-dominated Hezbollah and Amal parties, as well as assorted Maronite- and Sunni-dominated parties, the SSNP, Ba'athist and Nasserist parties. The Syrian civil war is also having a significant impact on contemporary political life.
Since the end of the war, the Lebanese have conducted several elections, most of the militias have been weakened or disbanded, and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have extended central government authority over about two-thirds of the country. Following the cease-fire which ended 12 July 2006 Israeli-Lebanese conflict, the army has for the first time in over three decades moved to occupy and control the southern areas of Lebanon.
Lebanon still bears deep scars from the civil war.
In all, it is estimated that around 150,000 people were killed, and another 100,000 permanently handicapped by injuries. Approximately 900,000 people, representing one-fifth of the pre-war population, were displaced from their homes. Perhaps a quarter of a million emigrated permanently.
Thousands of land mines remain buried in the previously contested areas. Some Western hostages kidnapped during the mid-1980s were held until June 1992. Lebanese victims of kidnapping and wartime "disappeared" number in the tens of thousands.
In the 15 years of strife, there were at least 3,641 car bombs, which left 4,386 people dead and thousands more injured.
In pop culture
- The British synthpop band The Human League released The Lebanon (song) a track about the Lebanese Civil war, and in particular the Sabra and Shatila massacre, in April 1984.
- The Argentinean rock/new wave band GIT wrote and recorded a song, in 1986, called "Buenas noches, Beirut" (Good night, Beirut), about the Lebanese Civil War, include on their third eponymous studio album.
- Out of Life by Maroun Baghdadi, from 1991, was awarded the Jury Prize at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.
- In 2009, Saleh Barakat curated "The Road to Peace" exhibition at Beirut Art Center. The exhibition featured paintings, photographs, drawings, prints and sculptures by Lebanese artists during the war. Its title comes from a series of prints by Aref Rayess that depict Lebanese survivors of war.
- Waltz with Bashir, a movie from 2008 that deals with the 1982 Israeli intervention and the Sabra and Shatila massacre.
- The 2010 Canadian film Incendies depicts the civil war and its aftermath. It is partly based on incidents in the life of the Lebanese writer Souha Bechara.
- 1995 children's book, From Far Away by Robert Munsch is based on a true story of a family of asylum seekers to Canada, from the perspective of a girl who does not speak English and is unfamiliar with Western culture and customs, although the conflict is not specifically indicated, it is heavily implied.
- The war is the subject of Nabil Kanso's paintings The Vortices of Wrath (Lebanon 1977), Lebanon (painting), Endless Night (painting), Lebanon Summer 1982.
- Palestinian insurgency in South Lebanon
- Syrian occupation of Lebanon
- List of modern conflicts in the Middle East
- Schulhofer-Wohl, Jonah. 2020. Quagmire in Civil War. Cambridge University Press
- Jean-Marc Aractingi, La Politique à mes trousses (Politics at my heels), Editions l'Harmattan, Paris, 2006, Lebanon Chapter (ISBN 978-2-296-00469-6).
- Al-Baath wa-Lubnân [Arabic only] ("The Baath and Lebanon"), NY Firzli, Beirut, Dar-al-Tali'a Books, 1973.
- The Iraq-Iran Conflict, NY Firzli, Paris, EMA, 1981. ISBN 2-86584-002-6
- Bregman, Ahron (2002). Israel's Wars: A History Since 1947. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-28716-2
- Bregman, Ahron and El-Tahri, Jihan (1998). The Fifty Years War: Israel and the Arabs. London: BBC Books. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-026827-8
- The Breakdown of the State in Lebanon, 1967–1976. Khazen, Farid El (2000) (ISBN 0-674-08105-6)
- The Bullet Collection, a book by Patricia Sarrafian Ward, is an excellent account of human experience during the Lebanese Civil War.
- Civil War in Lebanon, 1975–92. O'Ballance, Edgar (1998) (ISBN 0-312-21593-2)
- Crossroads to Civil War: Lebanon 1958–1976. Salibi, Kamal S. (1976) (ISBN 0-88206-010-4)
- Death of a country: The civil war in Lebanon. Bulloch, John (1977) (ISBN 0-297-77288-0)
- Faces of Lebanon: Sects, Wars, and Global Extensions (Princeton Series on the Middle East) Harris, William W (1997) (ISBN 1-55876-115-2)
- The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians. Noam Chomsky (1983, 1999) (ISBN 0-89608-601-1)
- History of Syria Including Lebanon and Palestine, Vol. 2. Hitti Philip K. (2002) (ISBN 1-931956-61-8)
- Lebanon: A Shattered Country: Myths and Realities of the Wars in Lebanon, Revised Edition Picard, Elizabeth (2002) (ISBN 0-8419-1415-X)
- Lebanon in Crisis: Participants and Issues (Contemporary Issues in the Middle East). Haley P. Edward, Snider Lewis W. (1979) (ISBN 0-8156-2210-4)
- Lebanon: Fire and Embers: A History of the Lebanese Civil War by Hiro, Dilip (1993) (ISBN 0-312-09724-7)
- Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War. Fisk, Robert (2001) (ISBN 0-19-280130-9)
- Syria and the Lebanese Crisis. Dawisha, A. I. (1980) (ISBN 0-312-78203-9)
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