Like most of the Middle East, Lebanon has a long history of conflict and conquest. Unlike other Middle Eastern nations, however, Lebanon also has a long history of inviting, or at the least acquiescing in, foreign military intervention. Lebanese leaders have traditionally traded sovereignty for security.
Prior to its establishment as a sovereign and independent state shortly after World War II, Lebanon had existed under centuries of foreign domination. Many Lebanese cities capitulated to the invasions of the Crusader's, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and Lebanon's Christians collaborated with the French Crusaders. In the early seventeenth century, the Druze ruler Fakhr ad Din II concluded a secret treaty with Ferdinand I, duke of Tuscany in Italy, to oppose the Ottomans. Italian mercenaries helped to organize and equip his army on the European model. In 1840 the British and the Ottoman Turks bombarded Beirut at the behest of the Maronites and the Druzes, who had united to fight the invasion of the Egyptian Muhammad Ali. In the 1850s, the Druzes cultivated a special relationship with the British, while the French maintained their traditional role as protectors of the Maronites. In 1860 European nations landed troops in Beirut to protect Christians and to end a massacre by the Druzes that had claimed over 10,000 Christian lives. And after World War I, Lebanese Christians supported the French Mandate.
The Ottoman Empire ruled Lebanon indirectly for almost 400 years (beginning in 1516) by delegating authority to local amirs (princes), who raised feudal armies consisting mainly of nonLebanese mercenaries and some Lebanese conscripts. During this period, the amirs intentionally integrated their militia, and Christian Maronites and Druzes served side by side. In the settlement that followed the Druze massacre of Christians in 1860, Lebanon was made an autonomous province of the Ottoman Empire ruled by a Christian mutasarrif (governor) appointed by the Sublime Porte, i.e., the imperial ruler, but subject to the approval of the European powers that had intervened to help stabilize the area. The mutasarrif was empowered to establish a small local militia, whose officers were apportioned from religious groups in the area. The provincial militia was a voluntary organization, and it disintegrated with the advent of World War I.
After the establishment of the League of Nations mandate over Lebanon in April 1920, France formed the Troupes Spéciales du Levant (Levantine Special Forces), which were composed of Lebanese and Syrian enlisted personnel but commanded predominantly by French officers. The percentage of Lebanese and Syrian officers in the force increased gradually, however, especially after the outbreak of World War II. By 1945 approximately 90 percent of the officers in the Troupes Spéciales du Levant were Arabs, and the force had attained its maximum strength of about 14,000.
During World War II, Lebanese troops fought effectively in Lebanon with the Vichy French forces against British and Free French forces. After the surrender of Vichy forces in the Middle East in July 1941, volunteers from the Troupes Spéciales du Levant were enlisted in the Free French forces and participated in combat in North Africa, Italy, and southern France.
In June 1943, the French reconstituted units of the Troupes Spéciales du Levant, which were then attached to the British forces in the Middle East. In 1945, as the result of continuing pressure by Lebanese leaders for control of their own forces, the French turned over to them the Lebanese units of the Troupes Spéciales du Levant. These units totaled about 3,000 men and became the nucleus of the Lebanese Army.
Following independence, the government of Lebanon intentionally kept its armed forces small and weak--a "toy army," as one expert described it. Christian politicians, aware of the ubiquity of military dictatorships in Arab nations, feared that Muslims might use the armed forces as a vehicle for seizing power in a military coup d'état. Furthermore, as laissez-faire businessmen, the Christians appeared unwilling to incur the cost of maintaining a large standing army. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Lebanon never spent more than 4 percent of its gross national product on the military budget. Furthermore, many Christian Lebanese feared that a large army would inevitably embroil Lebanon in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Muslim politicians, on the other hand, were wary that a strong army, because it would be commanded by Christians, be used prejudicially against Muslim interests. At the same time, however, they tended to feel that the military should be strong enough to play a part in the Arab-Israeli struggle. Finally, prominent politicians of all religious denominations have tended also to be feudal warlords commanding their own private militias and fearing that a strong army would erode their personal power.
Because of this disagreement over its role, the Lebanese Army has played little part in Lebanese politics. Furthermore, it has remained on the sidelines even with regard to issues within the scope of its mandate to preserve security. Consistent with this circumscribed role, the Lebanese Army's most salient mission has been to supervise and referee Lebanon's traditionally violent elections, which even in relatively peaceful times have been a volatile mixture of ballots and bullets.
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The 1948 Arab-Israeli War
Lebanon, alone among the Arab nations bordering Palestine, played no significant part in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War that led to the establishment of Israel. The Lebanese Army deployed four battalions along the border but withdrew them from combat, enabling the Israeli Army to capture a strip of eastern Lebanon in October 1948. The new state of Israel occupied this area until March 23, 1949, when Lebanon signed an armistice. Under the agreement, Lebanon and Israel gave mutual assurances that they would not embark on military offensives against each other and would respect each other's territory. The old Palestine-Lebanon border was accepted as the new "armistice demarcation line" but was not recognized as a legal political or territorial boundary.
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The Rosewater Revolution
In 1952 President Bishara al Khuri (also seen as Khoury) ordered the Maronite army commander, General Fuad Shihab (also seen as Chehab), to break a national strike of a coalition of Muslim and Christian leaders demanding Khuri's resignation. Shihab disobeyed Khuri's order to send the army into action, refusing, in his words, to order his troops to "shoot their fellow citizens." This paved the way for Khuri's resignation. Shihab was installed as prime minister in a caretaker government, and when Camille Shamun (also seen as Chamoun) was elected Lebanon's new president, Shihab characteristically relinquished his political position. In selfdeprecation, Lebanese referred to the peaceful coup d'état as the Rosewater Revolution.
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The 1958 Civil War
The 1958 Civil War was instigated by Lebanese Muslims and Druzes who were inspired by the February 1958 unification of Egypt and Syria and agitated to make Lebanon a member of the new United Arab Republic. Although the war took a toll of some 2,000 to 4,000 lives, it was regarded by many as a comic opera, especially when 5,000 United States Marines were landed on the beaches near Beirut and waded ashore among sunbathers and swimmers. The Marines' role, in a situation described by the Department of Defense as "like war but not war," was to support the legal Lebanese government against any foreign invasion, specifically against Syria. The Marines were summoned because Shihab, believing that the army would mutiny and disintegrate if ordered into action, had disobeyed President Shamun's orders to send the army against Muslim rebels. Thus, Lebanon's army had once more proved unwilling to defend Lebanon's government.
Nevertheless, Shihab's reputation for evenhandedness was enhanced by his refusal to commit the army to ending the Civil War, and he succeeded Shamun as president. Shihab pictured himself as a military statesman like Charles de Gaulle. Although he relied heavily on the Deuxième Bureau (the military intelligence branch of the army), as his power base, he surrendered command of the Lebanese Army and did not rule as a military dictator. On the contrary, he was a reformer who made significant concessions to Muslims in an attempt to heal the wounds of the 1958 Civil War.
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The Cairo Agreement and the Prelude to the 1975 Civil War
The army's inactivity continued under Shihab's successor, Charles Hilu (also seen as Helou), who became president in 1964. Hilu and his army commander refused to commit Lebanese troops to the June 1967 War, enraging many Lebanese Muslims. In the aftermath of that war, the army and its Deuxième Bureau turned a blind eye to Palestinian guerrillas infiltrating Lebanon from Syria, an attitude that angered Christians. But when the army did not interfere with commando raids and the Israelis launched attacks into Lebanon in retaliation against the Palestinian forces, the army and the Deuxiéme Bureau were charged with collusion with Israel. In December 1968, the government was humiliated when Israeli commandos landed at Beirut International Airport and destroyed Middle East Airlines aircraft with impunity.
In October 1969, the Lebanese Army took a more active role in fighting Palestinian forces. Nevertheless, it was clear that the army could decisively defeat the Palestinians only at the risk of splitting the nation. Therefore, army commander General Emil Bustani signed the Cairo Agreement in November 1969 with Palestinian representatives. The Cairo Agreement remains officially secret, but it apparently granted to the Palestinians the right to keep weapons in their camps and to attack Israel across Lebanon's border. By sanctioning the armed Palestinian presence, however, Lebanon surrendered full sovereignty over military operations conducted within and across its borders and became a party to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
A turning point in Lebanon's modern history occurred in 1970. In that year, Sulayman Franjiyah (also seen as Franjieh) was elected president. Franjiyah, who came from the Christian enclave of Zgharta in northern Lebanon, was accused of promoting his own power and catering to the interests of his clansmen instead of confronting Lebanon's growing security problems. Believing that the Deuxième Bureau was staffed with Shihab loyalists, Franjiyah purged it and stripped it of its powers. But the Deuxième Bureau had been the only governmental entity capable of monitoring and controlling the Palestinians, and Franjiyah's action unintentionally gave the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) more freedom of action in Lebanon. Meanwhile, the PLO made a bid to topple Jordan's King Hussein, but it was crushed and evicted from the country--an event known in the Palestinian lexicon as "Black September." Therefore, the PLO leadership and guerrillas moved their main base of operations from Jordan to Lebanon, where the Cairo Agreement endorsed their presence. The influx of several hundred thousand Palestinians upset Lebanon's delicate confessional balance, and polarized the nation into two camps--those who supported and those who opposed the PLO presence.
Public order deteriorated with daily acts of violence between Christians and Palestinians. Meanwhile, the Israeli Air Force launched raids against the Palestinian refugee camps in retaliation for PLO terrorist attacks in Western Europe. On April 10, 1973, Israeli commandos infiltrated Beirut in a daring raid and attacked Palestinian command centers in the heart of the capital, killing three prominent PLO leaders. Once again, the conspicuous absence of the Lebanese Army during the Israeli attack angered Lebanese Muslims. Prime Minister Saib Salam claimed that Army commander General Iskandar Ghanim--a Maronite--had disobeyed orders by not resisting the Israeli raid, and he threatened to resign unless Ghanim were stripped of his rank. Because Ghanim was allowed to remain as army commander (until he was replaced by Hanna Said in September 1975), Salam did resign and was succeeded by a series of weak prime ministers.
When the Lebanese Army finally went into action, it was against the PLO. In May 1973, fierce combat raged around the refugee camps for two weeks. When the dust settled, it became clear to all Lebanese that their army was not strong enough to control the PLO. To end the fighting, the government negotiated the Melkart Agreement, which on the one hand obligated the PLO to respect the "independence, stability, and sovereignty" of Lebanon but on the other hard ceded to the PLO virtual autonomy, including the right to maintain its own militia forces in certain areas of Lebanon. These provisions of the Melkart Agreement differed greatly from the Cairo Agreement, which preserved the "exercise of full powers in all regions and in all circumstances by Lebanese civilian and military authorities."
Lebanese Muslims believed that under the Melkart Agreement Palestinian refugees in Lebanon had been accorded a greater degree of self-determination than some Lebanese citizens. Inspired by this, they organized themselves politically and militarily and tried to wrest similar concessions from the central government. In 1974 Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt (also seen as Junblatt) established the Lebanese National Movement (formerly the Front for Progressive Parties and National Forces), an umbrella group comprising antigovernment forces.
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The 1976 Civil War
The fuse that ignited the Civil War was finally lit in February 1975 when the Lebanese Communist Party and other leftists organized violent demonstrations in Sidon on behalf of fishermen who were threatened economically by a state-monopoly fishing company. The Lebanese Army was called in to restore order, but, in the volatile atmosphere, armed clashes erupted. Muslim politicians protested that the use of the army was a violation of the demonstrators' democratic liberties and asked why the army was shooting at civilians rather than defending Lebanon's borders against Israeli incursions. Sunni leaders also faulted the channels used for ordering the army into action. General Ghanim had assumed charge of the army's conduct and reported directly to President Franjiyah, ignoring Sunni Muslim Prime Minister Rashid as Sulh (also seen as Solh). Meanwhile, thousands of students in mainly Christian East Beirut demonstrated in support of the army. These serious splits were exacerbated when Maruf Saad, a Sunni populist leader, died in March of wounds suffered during the Sidon clashes. Long-standing concerns that the army would disintegrate if it were called into action were vindicated when intense fighting broke out between Maronite and Muslim army recruits.
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The Military Cabinet
During the first months of intermittent combat between Muslims and Christians, Franjiyah refused to commit the army to separate the combatants. On May 23, however, he took the unorthodox and unprecedented step of appointing a military cabinet. Muslim Brigadier Nur ad Din Rifai, retired commander of the Internal Security Force, was named prime minister. Rifai selected the controversial Ghanim as his minister of defense; all other cabinet ministers except one were also military officers.
Franjiyah's motives were difficult to discern. Some believed his move was part of a plot to cement Maronite dominance of the government. Others believed he was attempting to force the recalcitrant army to intervene in the fighting. Perhaps Franjiyah sincerely thought that a strong interconfessional military government with unquestionable authority over the army could avert widespread conflict, although Lebanon's democracy would be sacrificed. Indeed, Syrian foreign minister Abdal Halim Khaddam reportedly warned Lebanese politicians that the Lebanese Army was capable of uniting its ranks, staging a coup d'état, and imposing a military dictatorship.
Nevertheless, Lebanon's first and last military government was short lived, resigning two days after its inception. Even when installed in the government, the army proved unwilling or incapable of exerting authority in Lebanon. The resignation of the military government demonstrated the power vacuum in Lebanese politics and served as the catalyst to conflict. The rival military factions intensified their fighting, and full-fledged civil war began in earnest.
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The Early Stages of Combat
To many Lebanese, the complex 1975 Civil War can be summarized in only a few words. These words are place-names, such as Ad Damur or Karantina, which evoke traumatic memories of massacres and atrocities and need no further explanation. A narrative of the Civil War is therefore more a translation of this vocabulary of suffering and pain than a chronology of campaigns.
The Sarajevo of the Lebanese Civil War occurred on April 13, 1975, when unidentified gunmen opened fire at a congregation outside a Maronite church in Ayn ar Rummanaha, Christian suburb of Beirut. In apparent retaliation, members of the Christian Phalange Party ambushed a bus filled with Palestinians and shot the passengers. These events initiated the escalating cycle of retaliation and revenge that came to characterize Lebanon for the next decade.
The first six months of combat were desultory by subsequent Lebanese standards, with Phalangist and Palestinian forces exchanging small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire from their respective strongholds of Al Ashrafiyah and Tall Zatar. The Phalangist strategy was predicated on forcing the army to intervene on its side. Although over 1,000 people were killed in the early fighting, many Lebanese still viewed the nascent Civil War as a transitory phenomenon that would soon abate, like past security crises. Therefore, when well-organized Muslim militias attacked the downtown Qantari district in late October 1975, causing heavy loss of life and massive property damage, many inhabitants of Beirut realized for the first time that the war was a serious affair. The Muslim side eventually took Qantari and occupied the forty-story Murr Tower, the highest building in Beirut.
On December 6, 1975, "Black Saturday," Phalangists set up roadblocks on city streets, seized an estimated 350 Muslims, and murdered them. Muslims had been easily identifiable because Lebanese identification cards indicated religious affiliation. This was the first major massacre of civilians in the Civil War and started a vicious cycle of revenge and retaliation. From this point on, after combatants of each faction conquered territory from their rivals, they routinely killed civilians.
In late 1975 and early 1976, fierce fighting engulfed Beirut's high-rise hotel district. The hotels changed hands several times, with the Muslims ultimately securing control of the area. The expanded scope and intensity of the combat increased casualties greatly, with over 1,000 killed in the first weeks of the new year.
It was at this juncture that the Army Lebanese disintegrated completely. On January 16, 1976, Minister of Defense Shamun called in the mostly Christian-manned Lebanese Air Force to bomb leftist positions in Ad Damur. In response, Muslim troops rallied to the side of Lieutenant Ahmad Khatib, who split off and declared the creation of the Lebanese Arab Army (see Appendix B). In desperation, Beirut garrison commander Brigadier Aziz Ahdab seized Beirut's radio and television stations on March 11 and announced that the Lebanese Army was stepping in to take over the government and restore order. But Ahdab's move came too late, and he was derisively nicknamed "General Television" by militia leaders, who commanded far more men.
Karantina, a slum district named after the old immigration quarantine area, was the site of the next major episode in the war. Situated so that it controlled Christian access over the Beirut River bridge to the strategic port area, it became a military target. Karantina was populated primarily by poor Kurds and Armenians but was controlled by a PLO detachment. On January 18, 1976, Christian forces conquered Karantina and massacred up to 1,000 civilians.
Two days later, revenge-seeking Palestinians and leftist Muslims attacked the Christian city of Ad Damur, located about 20 kilometers south of Beirut, and murdered between 200 and 500 Christians. The two consecutive massacres induced Muslims residing in Christian-dominated areas to flee to Muslim-held areas, and vice versa. Whereas most Lebanese towns and neighborhoods previously had been integrated, for the first time large-scale population transfers began to divide the country into segregated zones, the first step toward de facto partition.
The Christians were losing the Civil War as the Muslim-leftist side forced them to retreat farther into East Beirut. The Christians felt it imperative to retain control of Beirut's port district and constructed an elaborate barricade defense at Allenby Street. In May 1976, as the Christians tried to stave off the Muslim assault on the port district, the Lebanese Army finally entered the fray. Christian officers and enlisted men from the Al Fayadiyyah barracks outside Beirut came to the aid of their beleaguered coreligionists, bringing armored cars and heavy artillery. The Muslim advance was stopped, and the front at Allenby Street evolved into a no-man's-land, dividing Christian East Beirut from Muslim West Beirut. Vegetation that eventually grew in this abandoned area inspired the name Green Line, and in 1987 it still cut the city in two.
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The government of Syria, although in theory a socialist regime, feared that a leftist victory and the installation of a radical government in Lebanon would undermine Syrian security and provide Israel an excuse to intervene in the area. After repeated diplomatic efforts failed to quell the Lebanese Civil War, on June 1, 1976, Syria intervened on the side of the Christians. In the following months, the Syrian presence grew to 27,000 troops. By November the Syrians had occupied most Muslim-held areas of Lebanon, including West Beirut and Tripoli. Most Muslim forces capitulated without firing a shot, overwhelmed by the Syrian show of force. In Sidon, however, Palestinian and leftist forces fought off the Syrians for nearly six months before relinquishing their stronghold.
For nearly the entire first year of the Civil War, the Phalangists and the PLO had made a mutual attempt to avoid combat, even as smaller Christian and Palestinian splinter groups clashed. The PLO tried to enhance its reputation and credibility by playing the role of a neutral mediator between the Lebanese left and the Christians. For its part, the Phalange Party avoided antagonizing the PLO because it feared that the Palestinians would intervene on the Muslim side. After Syria had subdued the Muslim threat, however, the Phalangists turned their full attention to the Palestinians.
The battle for Tall Zatar was the final showdown of the Lebanese Civil War. Tall Zatar was a Palestinian refugee camp situated on the Christian side of the Green Line where about 1,500 Palestinian guerrillas defended a civilian population of roughly 20,000 against several thousand Christian militiamen. The Christians were supported and advised in their siege by the Lebanese and Syrian armies; Israeli advisers were also present on the Christian side.
Because Tall Zatar was honeycombed with bunkers and tunnels, the PLO was able to defend the camp from persistent Christian attacks for about six months, despite a nearly constant barrage of artillery fire that took a large toll. On August 12 Christian forces finally overran the camp and massacred many of the several thousand civilians who had remained there.
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The Riyadh Conference and the Arab Deterrent Force
In October 1976 a League of Arab States (Arab League) summit conference was convened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to resolve the Lebanese crisis. The conference did not address the underlying political and demographic problems, only the security situation. The resulting multilateral agreement mandated a cease-fire and, at the Lebanese government's behest, authorized the creation of the Arab Deterrent Force (ADF) to impose and supervise the cease-fire. In theory the ADF, funded by the Arab League, was to be a pan-Arab peacekeeping force under the supreme command of the Lebanese president. In reality, only about 5,000 Arab troops from Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf states, Libya, and Sudan augmented the existing Syrian forces. Moreover, Syria would not relinquish actual command over its soldiers. Therefore, the agreement in effect legitimized and subsidized the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. In the sunner of 1977 Syria, the PLO, and the government of Lebanon signed the Shtawrah Accord, which detailed the planned disposition of the ADF in Lebanon and called for a reconstituted Lebanese Army to take over PLO positions in southern Lebanon.
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The Red Line Arrangement
Meanwhile, Israel grew concerned over the Syrian military presence in Lebanon, particularly as the Syrian Army pursued retreating Palestinians and Muslim leftists into southern Lebanon. Israel believed that the Syrian forces, massed in southern Lebanon, might attack Israel across the unfortified Lebanese border and thus avoid the need to penetrate the heavily defended Golan Heights. Therefore, Israel enunciated its "Red Line" policy, threatening to attack Syria if it crossed a line identified geographically with the Litani River. Thus, Syrian forces were generally precluded from moving south of the Litani. The Red Line was a geographic line, but it was also more subjective than a line on a map. Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin identified the Red Line as a guideline for gauging Syria's overall military behavior in Lebanon, and he described several criteria Israel would use: the objectives of Syrian forces and against whom they were operating, the geographical area and its proximity to Israel's borders, the strength and composition of Syrian forces, and the duration of their stay in a given area.
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The Interwar Years
Israel had cultivated a relationship with Lebanon's Christian community almost from the advent of the Zionist movement. Some Zionist politicians had envisaged a Jewish-Maronite alliance to counterbalance Muslim regional dominance. After Israel's independence in 1948, some Israeli leaders advocated extending the northern border to encompass Lebanon up to the Litani River and to assimilate the Christian population living there. In 1955 Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and General Moshe Dayan conceived a plan to intervene in Lebanon and install a Lebanese Christian president amenable to improving bilateral relations.
The patriarchs of Lebanon's Christian community, particularly Pierre Jumayyil and Camille Shamun, were tempted by Israeli offers of assistance, but they nevertheless resisted entrusting the security of the Maronites to Israel and abjured close contact with Israel. But in 1976, threatened by the escalating Civil War, a new generation of Lebanese Christian leaders turned to Israel for military support against the ascendant PLO and the Muslim left. After a series of clandestine meetings between Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence agency, and militia leaders Bashir Jumayyil and Dani Shamun, Israel began supplying US$50 million per year to arm and equip the Christian fighters.
Covert Christian-Israeli cooperation tapered off after Syria intervened on the Christian side in June 1976 and quelled the sectarian fighting. When the Syrian-dominated ADF began to act like an occupying army, however, the Maronites' fear of Muslim dominance was replaced by fear of Syrian dominance. Jumayyil, recognizing that only Israel was powerful enough to expel the Syrians, renewed contact with Israel; his initiative coincided with the victory of the Likud Party in Israel's 1977 elections. The new prime minister, Menachim Begin, was more inclined to support the Christians than his predecessor, both for ideological and for tactical reasons. Begin empathized with the Christians as a kindred, embattled religious minority and promised to prevent their "genocide." At the same time, he perceived the Maronites as a fifth column in Lebanon to check the power of the Palestinians. Arms shipments were stepped up, hundreds of Phalangist and Tiger's militiamen were trained in Israel, and Israeli intelligence and security advisers were dispatched to East Beirut.
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Because it was skeptical about the willingness and capability of the Lebanese Army to implement the Shtawrah Accord by displacing the PLO in southern Lebanon and securing the border area, in 1977 Israel started to equip and fund a renegade Christian remnant of the Lebanese Army led by Major Saad Haddad. Haddad's force, which became known as The Free Lebanon Army, and later as the South Lebanon Army (SLA), grew to a strength of about 3,000 men and was allied closely with Israel. Haddad eventually proclaimed the enclave he controlled "Free Lebanon." The insulation provided by this buffer area permitted Israel to open up its border with Lebanon. Under this so-called "Good Fence" policy, Israel provided aid and conducted trade with Lebanese living near the border.
On March 11, 1978, PLO terrorists made a sea landing in Haifa, Israel, commandeered a bus, and then drove toward Tel Aviv, firing from the windows. By the end of the day, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had killed the nine terrorists, who had murdered thirty-seven Israeli civilians. In retaliation, four days later Israel launched Operation Litani, invading Lebanon with a force of 25,000 men. The purpose of the operation was to push PLO positions away from the border and bolster the power of the SLA. The IDF first seized a security belt about ten kilometers deep, but then pushed north and captured all of Lebanon south of the Litani River, inflicting thousands of casualties.
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The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was established by the United Nations (UN) Security Council with Resolution 425 on March 19, 1978, "for the purpose of confirming the withdrawal of Israeli forces, restoring international peace and security, and assisting the government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area." Subsequent Resolution 426 defined UNIFIL's rules of engagement and instructed it to "use its best efforts to prevent the recurrence of fighting" and to ensure that its area of operation would not be used for hostile activities of any kind. UNIFIL consisted of approximately 7,000 men from 14 UN member states and between 30 and 90 military observers from the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, headquartered in the town of An Naqurah.
UNIFIL, however, encountered difficulty in performing its mission. Resolution 425 made "full cooperation of all parties concerned" a prerequisite for UNIFIL's deployment. Although Israel had agreed formally to take the necessary steps for compliance with the resolution, it did not believe that UNIFIL could stop PLO incursions across the border. Therefore, when Israel started to withdraw in late March, it refused to relinquish all of the territory it had conquered in southern Lebanon to UNIFIL. Instead, Israel turned over an enclave to its proxy force, the SLA, increasing the area under Major Haddad's control. This area included not only the ten-kilometer-deep security belt adjacent to the Israeli border but also a vertical north-south corridor running from the border to the Litani River and splitting the UNIFIL area into two noncontiguous zones.
Other parties frustrated the UNIFIL peacekeeping efforts. Although the PLO also had promised to cooperate with UNIFIL, it argued that the 1969 Cairo Agreement entitled it to operate in southern Lebanon, and it attempted to reoccupy areas after Israel withdrew. Furthermore, on the grounds that the IDF had not occupied Tyre, the PLO refused to allow UNIFIL to police the city, and Palestinian patrols attempted repeatedly to pass through UNIFIL lines. For its part, the SLA did not even make a pretense of cooperating with UNIFIL. Instead, it attacked UNIFIL personnel and encroached on UNIFIL's perimeter. Nevertheless, UNIFIL restored order to the areas under its control and served as an effective buffer force insulating Israel from the Palestinians. It set up roadblocks, checkpoints, and observation posts, interdicting approximately ten guerrilla patrols per month heading toward Israel. When UNIFIL apprehended Palestinian guerrillas, it confiscated their weapons but usually returned them later to PLO leaders. UNIFIL paid a price for performing its mission, however; between 1978 and 1982, thirty-six UNIFIL members were killed in action.
In late 1987 the future of UNIFIL was in doubt. Ironically, Israel, which had long considered UNIFIL a hindrance to its operations, changed its policy and in 1986 praised the positive role UNIFIL played in stabilizing the region. For its part, the government of Lebanon requested that UNIFIL be expanded to police almost the entire country. But at the same time, the Shias in southern Lebanon, who had traditionally supported UNIFIL, turned against the organization. In September 1986, Shia extremists started attacking UNIFIL's French contingent, and in five weeks of combat they killed four and wounded thirty. UNIFIL's casualty toll mounted and by mid-1987 stood at 139 killed and over 200 wounded. In 1986 the United States Congress cut the annual United States appropriation to UNIFIL from US$40 million to US$18 million, while France announced that it would withdraw its troops from UNIFIL in 1987.
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The Ascendancy of Bashir Jumayyil
Emboldened by Israel's willingness to intervene militarily in Lebanon, Bashir Jumayyil exploited Israel's tacit guarantees to consolidate his position within the fractious Maronite community. On June 13, 1978, he launched a surprise attack that decimated the Marada Brigade, the pro-Syrian Christian Militia led by Tony Franjiyah (son of the former president), who was killed in the attach, and provoked the Syrians with direct attacks. In pitting his meager force of a few thousand fighters against three divisions of the Syrian Army, Jumayyil was taking a calculated gamble that Israel would come to his rescue and evict the Syrians. Syria rushed forces to Beirut and unleashed a devastating artillery attack on East Beirut, particularly the Phalangist stronghold of Al Ashrafiyah, in preparation for taking over the area. But Jumayyil's brinkmanship was vindicated. The IDF massed forces on the Golan Heights and threatened to go to war to preserve the Maronite community. To emphasize the point, Israeli jets overflew Syrian positions. The threat worked, and Syria withdrew its troops.
Once again, Jumayyil took the opportunity to strengthen his grip over the Maronites. On July 7, 1980, the Phalangists launched another surprise attack, wiping out Shamun's Militia, the Tigers. Through this process of elimination, Jumayyil emerged as the dominant Maronite military leader.
Jumayyil persevered in his plot to embroil Israel in a fullscale war with Syria. In late 1980, after a series of meetings with Begin, he reportedly obtained a secret Israeli pledge to provide a defensive umbrella against a potential Syrian air attack. This pledge virtually committed Israel to fight Syria at Junmayyil's behest, although Israel admonished the Phalangists not to attack the Syrians.
In April 1981, Jumayyil decided to put Israel's promise to the test. Syria had launched its "Program of National Reconciliation," which was designed to install Sulayman Franjiyah as president. Jumayyil found the proposition unpalatable, but he was impotent to oppose it politically. Therefore, he staged an incident in the city of Zahlah deliberately calculated to flare into a major crisis. Zahlah, the capital of Al Biqa Province in eastern Lebanon, had never been a Phalangist base; its population was primarily proSyrian Greek Orthodox, and it was about fifteen kilometers west of the Syrian border in the heart of the Syrian-occupied zone of Lebanon. Jumayyil infiltrated approximately 100 Phalangist militiamen into the city to attack Syrian positions and to shell the Syrian headquarters in the adjacent town of Shtawrah. The Syrians responded by besieging Zahlah. Jumayyil then called an urgent meeting with Begin and convinced him that the Syrians intended to follow through on the siege with an all-out attack on the Christian heartland. Although Syrian president Hafiz al Assad had told Jumayyil he would lift the siege if the Phalangists evacuated the city, Jumayyil concealed this point from Begin and instead urged Israel to honor its promise and launch an air strike against the Syrians.
On April 28, the Israeli cabinet convened and authorized a limited air strike, but it did so over the strident objections of Israel's intelligence chiefs, who suspected that the crisis was a Phalangist ploy. Israeli fighters carried out the raid and downed two Syrian helicopter troop transports on Jabal Sannin, a strategic mountain overlooking Zahlah.
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The Missile Crisis
The Israeli attack caught Assad by surprise. Syria had adhered to the so-called "Red Line" agreements by deliberately refraining from deploying antiaircraft missiles in the Biqa Valley and by not impeding Israeli photoreconnaissance overflights. Assad responded to the Israeli attack by stationing SA-6 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) in the vicinity of Zahlah. Other SAMs and surface-to-surface missiles were deployed on the Syrian side of the border.
Begin vowed publicly that the IDF would launch an attack on the missiles. In response, President Ronald Reagan dispatched to the Middle East Special Ambassador Philip Habib, who averted the imminent Israeli strike. Meanwhile, the Phalangists abandoned Zahlah, and Syria reasserted its control over the Biqa Valley. The net effect of the crisis was that Syrian air defense missiles were deployed in Lebanon. Israel was forced to tolerate this situation in the short run, but it still regarded the missile deployment as an unacceptable shift in the balance of forces that could not be endured indefinitely. Therefore, Israel had reasons of its own for a future attack on the Syrians in Lebanon.
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The Two-Week War
As the tension in the Biqa Valley subsided, IDF chief of staff Rafael Eitan urged Begin to mount an artillery bombardment of Palestinian bases in Lebanon. Israel routinely conducted preemptive artillery attacks and air strikes to deter PLO terrorist attacks against Galilee settlements in northern Israel. Then, on July 10, 1981, the IDF commenced five days of air strikes and naval bombardments against PLO strongholds in southern Lebanon.
The PLO fought back by shelling the Israeli resort town of Nahariyya on the Mediterranean coast. The conflict escalated as Israel launched a devastating air raid against the heavily populated Palestinian neighborhood of Fakhani in West Beirut, killing over 100 people and wounding over 600. By Israeli estimates, only thirty of those killed were terrorists. For ten days, the PLO then unleashed artillery fire against the upper Galilee. Although only six Israeli citizens were killed, many Israelis were shocked and stunned by the PLO's capability to sustain such an attack.
On July 24, Ambassador Habib returned to Israel to negotiate an end to the artillery duel. Because the PLO was almost out of ammunition and most of its guns had been silenced, the IDF wanted to prolong the fighting until it could win a clear-cut victory. But the Israeli cabinet was eager to comply with Habib's cease-fire proposal, and Israel entered into a truce with the PLO.
PLO leader Yasir Arafat was determined not to break the ceasefire. On a political level, the truce enhanced the PLO's diplomatic credibility. Tactically, it allowed the PLO time to reinforce its military strength in southern Lebanon. The Soviet Union refused to provide the PLO with weapons, but PLO emissaries purchased arms from East European countries and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), acquiring Grad and Katyusha artillery rockets and antiquated but functional T-34 tanks. More significant, Arafat reorganized the command and control structure of his forces, transforming the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) from a decentralized collection of terrorist and guerrilla bands to a disciplined standing army. By 1981 the Kastel, Karami, and Yarmuk brigades were established, and seven new artillery battalions were organized.
But on June 3, 1982, terrorists of the Abu Nidal Organization, a group that had split off from the PLO, attempted to assassinate Shlomo Argov, the Israeli ambassador to Britain. Israel seized on the attack as the pretext for launching its long-planned offensive. On June 4, IDF aircraft bombed Palestinian targets in West Beirut, and the PLO resumed artillery fire on Israeli settlements in the northern Galilee.
The Israeli cabinet convened and voted to authorize an invasion, named Operation Peace for Galilee, but it set strict limits on the extent of the incursion. The IDF was to advance no farther than forty kilometers, the operation was to last only twenty-four hours, Syrian forces were not to be attacked, and Beirut was not to be approached.
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The 1982 Israeli Invasion (Operation Peace for Galilee)
Because of the limits imposed by the Isaraeli cabinet, the IDF implemented its attack in increments, neither openly recognizing nor acknowledging its destination and objectives. Had it been ordered from the outset to secure Beirut, it could have done so in an effective and efficient manner. Instead, the IDF advance unfolded in an ad hoc and disorganized fashion, greatly increasing the difficulty of the operation.
When IDF ground forces crossed into Lebanon on June 6, they pursued a battle strategy that entailed a three-pronged attack conducted by five divisions and two reinforced brigade-size units. On the western axis, two divisions converged on Tyre and proceeded north along the coastal road toward Sidon, where they were to link up with an amphibious commando unit that had secured a beachhead north of the city. In the central sector, a third division veered diagonally across southern Lebanon, conquered the Palestinian-held Beaufort Castle, located a few kilometers southwest of Marj Uyun, and headed west toward Sidon, where it linked up with the coastal force in a classic pincer movement. The IDF advanced rapidly in the first day of the war, bypassing and enveloping pockets of PLO resistance. Most PLO military officers fled, abandoning their men, who split into small roving guerrilla bands. Moreover, it became clear that the PLO was fighting alone against the Israeli onslaught. The Shia Amal guerrillas had been ordered by their leaders not to fight and to surrender their weapons if necessary. South Lebanon's Shias had long suffered under Palestinian domination, and Shia villagers welcomed the advancing Israelis by showering them with rice and flowers. This traditional form of homage, later repeated by the Druze and Christian populations, lent credence to the Israeli claim that it was "liberating" Lebanon.
But Palestinian resistance proved tenacious, particularly in the sprawling refugee camps in the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon. Staging hit-and-run operations and fighting in house-to- house and hand-to-hand combat, the Palestinians inflicted a high number of casualties of the IDF and impeded the progress of the Israeli advance. The IDF was further hampered because the refugee camps were inhabited by large numbers of civilian noncombatants who harbored the Palestinian fighters. Although the IDF made significant initial efforts to evacuate the civilians, it ultimately resorted to saturation bombing to subdue the camps. Palestinian resistance was especially fierce in the Ayn al Hulwah camp near Sidon, where several hundred Palestinian fighters fought to the last man, delaying the IDF advance for seven days. After the camp was leveled, the IDF stood poised to move against Beirut.
Two days later in eastern Lebanon, two divisions thrust directly north on parallel courses into Syrian-held territory with the mission of severing the strategic Beirut-Damascus highway. On June 8, the IDF evicted the Syrian Army from Jazzin and proceeded north. A brigade of Syrian commandos, however, ambushed the Israeli column in the mountainous terrain near Ayn Zhalta, approximately five kilometers short of the highway.
The IDF could not proceed further against the entrenched Syrian positions without close air support, but Syria's air defense systems threatened Israeli control of the skies. On June 9, the Israeli cabinet gave permission for an air raid against the Syrian antiaircraft missile batteries in the Biqa Valley. The Syrians, caught by surprise, sustained severe losses; of the nineteen missile batteries, only two were left intact by the Israeli attack. The Syrian Air Force made a desperate bid to protect the air defense system by sending up scores of interceptors and fighters, resulting in what both sides described as the biggest air battle in history, with over 200 aircraft engaged in supersonic dogfights over a 2,500 square kilometer area. The Israeli Air Force shot down twenty-nine Syrian aircraft that day (and later about fifty more) without a single loss. The devastation of the Syrian air defense system and the decimation of the Syrian Air Force provided the IDF with total air superiority in Lebanon and left the Syrian infantry exposed to air attack.
For three more days, the IDF mauled Syria's First Armored Division. The IDF was still stalled short of the Beirut-Damascus highway, but it was on the verge of breaking through the last line of Syria's defense. Bowing to political pressures, however, on June 11 Israel and Syria agreed to a truce under United States auspices.
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The Siege of Beirut
The cease-fire signaled the start of a new stage in the war, as Israel focused on PLO forces trapped in Beirut. Although Israel had long adhered to the axiom that conquering and occupying an Arab capital would be a political and military disaster, key Israeli leaders were determined to drive the PLO out of Beirut. According to the original plan, the Phalangists were to move into West Beirut under the covering fire of Israeli artillery and reunite the divided capital. Bashir Jumayyil concluded, however, that such overt collusion with the IDF would prejudice his chances to become president, and he reneged on the promises he had made.
Israel maintained the siege of Beirut for seventy days, unleashing a relentless barrage of air, naval, and artillery bombardment. At times, the Israeli bombardment appeared to be random and indiscriminate; at other times, it was targeted with pinpoint precision. Israeli strategists believed that if they could "decapitate" the Palestinian movement by killing its leaders, Palestinian resistance would disappear. Therefore, the Israeli Air Force conducted what has been called a "manhunt by air" for Arafat and his top lieutenants and on several occasions bombed premises only minutes after the PLO leadership had vacated them.
If the PLO was hurt physically by the bombardment, the political fallout was just as damaging to Israel. The appalling civilian casualties earned Israel world opprobrium. Morale plummeted among IDF officers and enlisted men, many of whom personally opposed the war. Meanwhile, the highly publicized plight of the Palestinian civilians garnered world attention for the Palestinian cause. Furthermore, Arafat was negotiating, albeit through intermediaries, with Ambassador Habib and other United States officials. Negotiating with Arafat was thought by some to be tantamount to United States recognition of the PLO.
Arafat had threatened to turn Beirut into a "second Stalingrad," to fight the IDF to the last man. His negotiating stance grew tenuous, however, after Lebanese leaders, who had previously expressed solidarity with the PLO, petitioned him to abandon Beirut to spare the civilian population further suffering. Arafat informed Habib of his agreement in principle to withdraw the PLO from Beirut on condition that a multinational peacekeeping force be deployed to protect the Palestinian families left behind. With the diplomatic deadlock broken, Habib made a second breakthrough when Syria and Tunisia agreed to host departing PLO fighters. An advance unit of the Multinational Force (MNF), 350 French troops, arrived in Beirut on August 21. The Palestinian evacuation by sea to Cyprus and by land to Damascus commenced on the same day. On August 26, the remaining MNF troops arrived in Beirut, including a contingent of 800 United States Marines. The Palestinian exodus ended on September 1. Approximately 8,000 Palestinian guerrillas, 2,600 PLA regulars, and 3,600 Syrian troops had been evacuated from West Beirut.
Taking stock of the war's toll, Israel announced that 344 of its soldiers had been killed and over 2,000 wounded. Israel calculated that hundreds of Syrian soldiers had been killed and over 1,000 wounded and that 1,000 Palestinian guerrillas had been killed and 7,000 captured. Lebanese estimates, compiled from International Red Cross sources and police and hospital surveys, calculated that 17,825 Lebanese had died and over 30,000 had been wounded.
On August 23, the legislature elected Bashir Jumayyil president of Lebanon. On September 10, the United States Marines withdrew from Beirut, followed by the other members of the MNF. The Lebanese Army began to move into West Beirut, and the Israelis withdrew their troops from the front lines. But the war was far from over. By ushering in Jumayyil as president and evicting the PLO from Beirut, Israel had attained two of its key war goals. Israel's remaining ambition was to sign a comprehensive peace treaty with Lebanon that would entail the withdrawal of Syrian forces and prevent the PLO from reinfiltrating Lebanon after the IDF withdrew.
Jumayyil repudiated earlier promises to Israel immediately after the election. He informed the Israelis that a peace treaty was inconceivable as long as the IDF or any other foreign forces remained in Lebanon and that it could be concluded only with the consent of all the Lebanese.
But on September 14, 1982, President-elect Jumayyil was assassinated in a massive radio-detonated explosion that leveled the Phalange Party headquarters where he was delivering a speech to party members. The perpetrator, Habib Shartuni, was soon apprehended. Shartuni, a member of the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party, was allegedly a Syrian agent. Jumayyil's brother, Amin, who was hostile to the Israeli presence in Lebanon, was elected president with United States backing.
On the evening of September 16, 1982, the IDF, having surrounded the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, dispatched approximately 300 to 400 Christian militiamen into the camps to rout what was believed to be the remnant of the Palestinian forces. The militiamen were mostly Phalangists under the command of Elie Hubayka (also seen as Hobeika), a former close aide of Bashir Jumayyil, but militiamen from the Israeli-supported SLA were also present. The IDF ordered its soldiers to refrain from entering the camps, but IDF officers supervised the operation from the roof of a six-story building overlooking parts of the area. According to the report of the Kahan Commission established by the government of Israel to investigate the events, the IDF monitored the Phalangist radio network and fired illumination flares from mortars and aircraft to light the area. Over a period of two days, the Christian militiamen massacred some 700 to 800 Palestinian men, women, and children.
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The Multinational Force
At the behest of the Lebanese government, the Multinational Force (MNF) was deployed again in Beirut, but with over twice the manpower of the first peacekeeping force. It was designated MNF II and given the mandate to serve as an "interpositional force," separating the IDF from the Lebanese population. Additionally, MNF II was assigned the task of assisting the Lebanese Army in restoring the authority of the central government over Beirut. The United States dispatched a contingent of 1,400 men, France 1,500, and Italy 1,400. A relatively small British contingent of about 100 men was added in January 1983, at which time the Italian contingent was increased to 2,200 men. Each contingent retained its own command structure, and no central command structure was created. The French contingent was assigned responsibility for the port area and West Beirut. The Italian contingent occupied the area between West Beirut and Beirut International Airport, which encompassed the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. The 32d United States Marines Amphibious Unit returned to Beirut on September 29, where it took up positions in the vicinity of Beirut International Airport. The Marines' positions were adjacent to the IDF front lines.
The Marines' stated mission was to establish an environment that permit would the Lebanese Army to carry out its responsibilities in the Beirut area. Tactically, the Marines were charged with occupying and securing positions along a line from the airport east to the Presidential Palace at Babda. The intent was to separate the IDF from the population of Beirut.
The key to the initial success of MNF II was its neutrality. The Lebanese government had assured Ambassador Habib in writing that it had obtained commitments from various factions to refrain from hostilities against the Marines. The United States reputation among the Lebanese was enhanced when a Marine officer was obliged to draw his pistol to halt an Israeli advance, an event sensationalized in the news media. And, in the same month, Marines conducted emergency relief operations in the mountains after a midwinter blizzard.
At this juncture, the prevalent mood in Lebanon was one of cautious optimism and hope. The Lebanese Army was pressed into service to clear away the rubble of years of warfare. The government approved a US$600 million reconstruction plan. On October 1, President Jumayyil declared Beirut reunited, as the army demolished barricades along the Green Line that had been standing since 1975. Hundreds of criminals and gang leaders were rounded up and arrested. In the first months of 1983, approximately 5,000 government troops were deployed throughout Greater Beirut. Most important, the government began to build a strong national army (see The Lebanese Armed Forces in the 1980s, this ch).
Lebanese optimism was bolstered by changing Israeli politics and policies. Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon, the architect of Israel's war in Lebanon, had resigned in the wake of the Sabra and Shatila investigation, although he remained in the cabinet as a minister without portfolio. He was replaced by the former ambassador to the United States, Moshe Arens. Although Arens was considered a hawk in the Israeli political spectrum, he was not committed to Sharon's ambitious goals and wanted the IDF to withdraw promptly from Lebanon, if only to avoid antagonizing the United States, with which he had cultivated a close relation. Accordingly, Israel withdrew its forces to the outskirts of the capital.
But the IDF had no clear tactical mission in Lebanon. Its continued presence was intended as a bargaining chip in negotiations for a Syrian withdrawal. While awaiting the political agreement, the IDF was forced to fight a different kind of war, which Israeli newspapers compared with the Vietnam War. The IDF had been turned into a static and defensive garrison force like the Syrians before them, caught in the cross fire between warring factions. When Phalangist forces tried to exploit the fluid situation by attacking the Druze militia in the Shuf Mountains in late 1983, the IDF had to intervene and separate the forces. In southern Lebanon, the IDF had to protect the many Palestinian refugees who had streamed back to the camps against attacks by Israel's proxy force, the SLA. In one of the bigger ironies of the war, the IDF recruited and armed Palestinian home guards to prevent a repetition of the massacres in Beirut.
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The Rise of the Shias
The 1979 Iranian Revolution galvanized Lebanon's Shia community and inspired in it a new militancy. Iran sought to export Shia revolution throughout the Middle East, and in doing so it provided material support to an Amal terrorist campaign. From 1979 until the 1982 Israeli invasion, Shia terrorists hijacked six airliners, attempted to bomb several others, assassinated the French ambassador to Lebanon, blew up the French and Iraqi embassies, and committed numerous other violent acts.
The Israeli invasion served as a catalyst for a further upsurge in Shia militancy. In July 1982 Iran dispatched an expeditionary force of volunteer Pasdaran Revolutionary Guards to Lebanon, ostensibly to fight Israeli invaders. The approximately 650 Pasdaran established their headquarters in the city of Baalbek in the Syrian-controlled Biqa Valley. There they conducted terrorist and guerrilla training, disbursed military matériel and money, and disseminated propaganda.
The political fission that characterized Lebanese politics also afflicted the Shia movement, as groups split off from Amal. Husayn al Musawi, a former Amal lieutenant, entered into an alliance with the Revolutionary Guard and established Islamic Amal. Other Shia groups included Hizballah (Party of God), Jundallah (Soldiers of God), the Husayn Suicide Commandos, the Dawah (Call) Party, and the notorious Islamic Jihad Organization, reportedly headed by Imad Mughniyyah.
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The May 17 Agreement
In April 1983, a terrorist attack destroyed the United States embassy, and the ambassador moved diplomatic operations to his official residence. The United States persevered in its efforts to broker an Israeli-Lebanese agreement, and Israel announced its willingness to negotiate. Although Israel had envisaged a treaty like the Camp David Agreements with Egypt, entailing full bilateral diplomatic recognition, it settled for mere "normalization." The military and security articles of the May 17 Agreement between the Israeli and Lebanese governments called for an abolition of the state of war between the two countries, security arrangements to ensure the sanctity of Israel's northern border, integration of Major Haddad's SLA into the regular Lebanese Army, and Israeli withdrawal.
The Israeli withdrawal was made contingent upon concurrent Syrian withdrawal, however. The United States had decided not to seek Syrian participation in the negotiations for the May 17 Agreement for fear of becoming entangled in the overall SyrianIsraeli imbroglio. Instead, the United States intended to seek Syrian endorsement after the agreement was signed. But Syria vehemently opposed the agreement, and because implementation hinged on Syrian withdrawal, Damascus could exert veto power. Although President Jumayyil made conciliatory overtures to Damascus, he also notified the Arab League on June 4 that the ADF was no longer in existence.
Syria responded by announcing on July 23, 1983, the foundation of the National Salvation Front (NSF). This coalition comprised many sects, including the Druzes led by Walid Jumblatt; Shias led by Nabih Birri (also seen as Berri); Sunni Muslims led by Rashid Karami; Christian elements led by Sulayman Franjiyah; and several smaller, Syrian-sponsored, left-wing political parties. These groups, together with Syria, controlled much more of Lebanon's territory than did the central government. Therefore, the NSF constituted a challenge not only to Jumayyil but also to his patrons, the United States and Israel. To emphasize their opposition to the May 17 Agreement, Syrian and Druze forces in the mountains above the capital loosed a barrage of artillery fire on Christian areas of Beirut, underscoring the weakness of Jumayyil's government.
By mid-1983 the mood of optimism that had flourished at the end of 1982 had disappeared. It became clear that the tentative alliance of Lebanon's rival factions was merely a function of their shared opposition to a common enemy, Israel. Terrorist activity resumed, and between June and August 1983, at least twenty car bombs exploded throughout Lebanon, killing over seventy people. Lebanon's prime minister narrowly escaped death in one explosion. Targets included a mosque in Tripoli; a television station, hospital, and luxury hotel in Beirut; and a market in Baalbek.
The May 17 Agreement had significant implications for the MNF. As a noncombatant interpositional force preventing the IDF from entering Beirut, the MNF had been perceived by the Muslims in West Beirut as a protector. As the Israeli withdrawal neared, however, the MNF came to be regarded as a protagonist in the unfinished Civil War, propping up the Jumayyil government. In August militiamen began to bombard United States Marines positions near Beirut International Airport with mortar and rocket fire as the Lebanese Army fought Druze and Shia forces in the southern suburbs of Beirut. On August 29, 1983, two Marines were killed and fourteen wounded, and in the ensuing months the Marines came under almost daily attack from artillery, mortar, rocket, and small-arms fire.
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The Israeli Defense Forces Withdrawal and the Mountain War
On September 3, 1983, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) began to evacuate the Shuf Mountains region and within twenty-four hours had completed its redeployment to south of the Awwali River. In the power vacuum resulting from the Israeli withdrawal, the Phalangist militia, no longer under Jumayyil's firm control, clashed with the Druze militia at Bhamdun, a town located where the Beirut-Damascus highway touches the edge of the Shuf Mountains. Simultaneously, the Lebanese Army sought to guard the cities of Suq al Gharb and Khaldah to prevent Druze forces from invading Beirut.
After several days of combat, the Phalangist militia was routed at Bhamdun and retreated to its stronghold of Dayr al Qamar, along with much of the Christian population. The Druzes surrounded and besieged Dayr al Qamar, which held 40,000 Christian residents and refugees and 2,000 Phalangist fighters. In other areas of the Shuf Mountains, the Druzes went on a rampage reminiscent of the 1860 massacres. The Catholic Information Center in Beirut reported that 1,500 Christian civilians were killed and 62 Christian villages demolished. The defeat of the Phalangists was expensive for the Christian community, which lost a large amount of territory.
The cost in political currency was even higher, however. Not only did the fighting deal a blow to Amin Jumayyil's credibility and authority in his dual role as chief of state and leader of the Christian community, it destroyed the myth shared by many different Lebanese factions that the Lebanese Civil War had been settled in 1976. Admittedly, Christians and Muslims had continued to fire on each other's neighborhoods on occasion, but this was perceived as part of Lebanon's environment, like the weather. In all the significant fighting between 1976 and 1982, the Syrians, Israelis, and Palestinians had been belligerents on either or both sides of the conflict. The Mountain War, as the 1983-84 fighting in the Shuf Mountains came to be called, however, was a purely Lebanese contest, and it dashed the hopes harbored by many that the withdrawal of foreign forces would end the Civil War.
In Suq al Gharb and Khaldah, it was the Lebanese Army rather than the Phalangists that confronted the Druze militias. On September 16, 1983, Druze forces massed on the threshold of Suq al Gharb. For the next three days the army's Eighth Brigade fought desperately to retain control of the town. The tiny Lebanese Air Force was thrown into the fray, losing several aircraft to Druze missile fire. United States Navy warships shelled Druze positions and helped the Lebanese Army hold the town until a cease-fire was declared on September 25, on which day the battleship U.S.S. New Jersey arrived on the scene.
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The Multinational Force Withdrawal
Although the Lebanese Army had beaten the Druze forces on the battlefield, it was a Pyrrhic victory because the army was discredited if not defeated. Approximately 900 Druze enlisted men and 60 officers defected from the army to join their coreligionists. The Lebanese Armed Forces chief of staff, General Nadim al Hakim, fled into Druze territory, but he would not admit he had actually defected. Thus, the army again had split along confessional lines. Furthermore, the army had halted the Druzes only with United States armed intervention.
For its part, the United States had clearly inherited Israel's role of shoring up the precarious Lebanese government. On September 29, 1983, the United States Congress, by a solid majority, adopted a resolution declaring the 1973 War Powers Resolution to apply to the situation in Lebanon and sanctioned the United States military presence for an eighteen-month period.
Although the MNF remained in Lebanon after the October 1983 suicide truck bombings, the situation of the United States and French contingents was precarious. In early February 1984, Shia Amal militiamen clashed with the Lebanese Army in the southern suburbs of Beirut and after four days of heavy fighting gained control over Beirut International Airport, evicted the army from West Beirut, and reestablished the Green Line partitioning the capital. The decisive defeat of the army on two key fronts led to its gradual disintegration, as demoralized soldiers defected to join the opposition. United States Marines stationed near Beirut International Airport were surrounded by predominantly Shia militia groups. As the security environment in Lebanon deteriorated, Britain, France, Italy, and the United States decided to withdraw their MNF contingents.
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The Bikfayya Accord
The withdrawal of the MNF left Syria as the dominant force in Lebanon, and Syria acted rapidly to consolidate its grip on Lebanese affairs. It pressured Jumayyil to abrogate the May 17 Agreement, and he did so on March 6, 1985. This event led to the resignation of the Council of Ministers and its replacement by a new government of national unity headed by Rashid Karami.
Syria hammered out yet another security accord, the Bikfayya Agreement of June 18. Muslim and Druze cabinet ministers had insisted on the creation of a military command council to replace the post of commander in chief of the armed forces, a proposal that was opposed by Christian cabinet ministers, who perceived it as a dilution of their control over the military. A compromise was reached providing for the continuation of the post of commander in chief, to be held by a Maronite as before, but also the establishment of a multiconfessional six-man military command council to have authority over appointments at the brigade and division levels. Major General Ibrahim Tannus, the army commander, was replaced by Major General Michel Awn (also seen as Aoun), who was somewhat more acceptable to Muslims. Furthermore, a new intelligence agency, the National Security Council, was established, with the stipulation that it be headed by a Shia Muslim. A Shia general, Mustafa Nasir, was named as the first director of the new agency. Nevertheless, the Maronite-commanded military intelligence apparatus remained intact as a separate but parallel institution. The agreement also called for a cease-fire, the withdrawal of heavy artillery and militiamen from the streets of East Beirut and West Beirut, the dismantling of barricades along the Green Line, and the reopening of the airport and port. The agreement formally took effect on June 23 and was implemented by July 6, 1985.
Optimistic predictions that the Bikfayya Agreement would end Lebanon's chronic conflict were dashed as sporadic battles and terrorist attacks resumed. The accord was criticized vehemently by elements among the Maronites as Druze, Shia, and Sunni militia fought one another in West Beirut. Armed Shias stormed and burned the Saudi Arabian embassy on August 24. On the same day, the Lebanese National Resistance Front, an umbrella organization fighting Israel in southern Lebanon, fired two rocket-propelled grenades at the British embassy. On September 20, in a replay of the April 1983 attack, a suicide vehicle bomber attacked the new United States embassy building in East Beirut, killing eight and wounding dozens. The mounting tension in Lebanon was exacerbated by Israeli air raids against Palestinian guerrilla camps of the Abu Musa faction. The Bikfayya Agreement suffered another blow on August 23, when General al Hakim, the newly appointed Druze chief of staff of the Lebanese Armed Forces, died in an accidental helicopter crash. And, on August 30 Maronite patriarch and Phalange Party founder Pierre Jumayyil died of a heart attack, setting the stage for a power struggle in the Christian community.
Syria, determined to implement the security plans it had sponsored, attempted to restore order. It curbed the activities of the Iranian Pasdaran and Hizballah in Baalbek in the Biqa Valley, and it quelled the fierce fighting in the northern port city of Tripoli between the pro-Syrian Arab Democratic Party and the Sunni fundamentalist Tawhid (Islamic Unification Movement).
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Events in Southern Lebanon
Some Israeli policymakers considered South Lebanon's Shias natural allies, especially because both Israel and the Shias wanted to prevent the PLO from returning to the area. Some Israelis envisioned a Shia buffer state modeled after "Free Lebanon," controlled formerly by Saad Haddad (Haddad died of cancer in January 1984 and was replaced by retired Lebanese general Antoine Lahad). Indeed, about 10 percent of the SLA was Shia, and the IDF armed and supported several Shia groups.
These hopes, however, were never realized. The Shias, in fact, turned out to be implacable foes, vehemently resisting the Israeli presence in southern Lebanon. Concerned about the growing number of casualties inflicted on the IDF by Shia militants, on February 16, 1985, the IDF implemented the first stage of a withdrawal from Lebanon, evacuating its troops from the northern front at the Awwali River to south of the Litani River, thus removing Sidon from Israeli control. Sidon's feuding factions, determined to avoid a flare-up of internecine violence in the wake of the Israeli withdrawal, formed a special committee to organize the smooth entry of Lebanese Army troops into the city. On February 17, a 3,000-man detachment of the army's predominantly Shia Twelfth Brigade took over the Israeli positions as the populace celebrated in the streets.
But the celebration was short lived. In March and April, a new round of Christian-Muslim fighting pitting a Palestinian-Druze-Shia coalition against the Phalangists engulfed Sidon. The army was dispatched but appeared powerless to stop the combat. The Phalangists suffered a major defeat, as thousands of Christian civilians retreated east to Jazzin, where they were protected by Lahad's SLA. Others fled behind Israeli occupation lines.
Yet Israel's withdrawal gave it no respite from guerrilla attacks. On the contrary, the guerrilla campaign escalated into full-scale warfare, with most of the attacks occurring in the vicinity of Tyre. Frustrated by its inability to curb the resistance fighters, Israel resorted to what it called the "Iron Fist" policy, which entailed retaliatory and preemptive raids on villages suspected of harboring Shia guerrillas. On March 4, an explosion devastated a mosque in the village of Marakah--only hours after the IDF had inspected the site--killing at least twelve people, many of whom were Shia guerrilla commanders. On March 11, a large Israeli armored force wreaked vengeance on the village of Az Zrariyah, killing 40 people and detaining 200 men.
The IDF hastened its withdrawal from southern Lebanon, adhering to an accelerated deadline voted by the Israeli cabinet, and pulled its troops back to the armistice line on June 6, 1985. Israel also closed its detention center in Ansar and freed 752 of the inmates. But, in violation of the Geneva Conventions, which forbids transporting prisoners of war across international boundaries, 1,200 prisoners were transferred to Israel. Israel preserved a security zone approximately five to ten kilometers wide, which it handed over to the SLA. Some 150 Israeli combat troops and 500 advisers remained within the security zone.
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Internecine Battles in the Lebanese Forces
In early 1985, clashes erupted again in the capital, this time between rival Christian factions. Recognizing that Syria was now the dominant arbiter of Lebanese affairs, Jumayyil and senior Phalange Party members held conciliatory talks with Syria and attempted to obtain Syrian security guarantees for Lebanon's Christians. In return, the Phalangists agreed to Syrian demands that the Christians make political concessions to the Muslims. However, a portion of the Lebanese Forces (LF) rebelled against the rapprochement with Syria. On March 13, 1985, Samir Jaja (also seen as Geagea), a pro-Israeli senior commander in the LF, ordered his followers to attack Jumayyil's loyalists, Lebanese Army units, and Muslim and Palestinian forces in Sidon and Beirut. Syria massed troops around the Christian heartland north of Beirut, but agreed to give Jumayyil time to neutralize the revolt before resorting to armed intervention. Jaja's relatively small force could not prevail against so many adversaries, and on May 10 he was replaced by Elie Hubayka, who was elected by Phalange Party executives as the new commander of the LF. Hubayka was notorious for his role in the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres but also had a reputation for being more pro-Syrian than Jaja.
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The War of the Camps
Just as relative calm was restored to Christian East Beirut, fighting broke out again in Muslim West Beirut. Under Syria's aegis, the Shia Amal organization attempted to consolidate its control over West Beirut. Amal struck first in an April 15 assault that routed the once-formidable Sunni Murabitun militia of the Independent Nasserite Movement in a matter of days and sent its leader, Ibrahim Kulaylat, into exile. Then it turned its attention to the Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra, Shatila, and Burj al Barajinah. The Palestinians, with indirect support from the Druzes, put up stiff resistance against the Amal attacks, however. Although some 500 Palestinians were killed in the battles and about 25,000 took refuge in Druze-controlled areas, the Palestinians retained control of the camps. But the Palestinians were confined to their camps by an Amal siege that was to last on and off for another two years before Syrian forces dispersed the Shias.
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The Tripartite Accord
In late 1985, Syria sponsored yet another agreement among Lebanon's factions aimed at ending the ongoing war. On December 28, the leaders of Lebanon's three main militias--Nabih Birri of Amal, Walid Jumblatt of the Druze Progressive Socialist Party, and Hubayka of the LF--signed the Tripartite Accord in Damascus. Although this agreement resembled many previous failed Syrian initiatives to restore order in Lebanon, it was more comprehensive. It provided for an immediate cease-fire and an official proclamation of the end of the state of civil war within one year. The militias would be disarmed and then disbanded, and sole responsibility for security would be relegated to the reconstituted and religiously integrated Lebanese Army, supported by Syrian forces. More broadly, the accord envisaged a "strategic integration" of the two countries in the spheres of military affairs, national security, and foreign relations. The accord also mandated fundamental, but not sweeping, political reform, including the establishment of a bicameral legislature and the elimination of the old confessional formula, which was to be replaced by majority rule and minority representation. The accord differed considerably from others inasmuch as the these signatories were the actual combatants in the war, rather than civilian politicians. This factor engendered considerable optimism in some quarters but great trepidation in others where it was viewed as an attempt to reconstruct Greater Syria. The most vehement protests came from the Sunni community, which was prominent in politics but had little military strength after its militia, the Murabitun, had been crushed earlier in the year.
Jumayyil refused to endorse the agreement, however, and solicited the support of Staff Samir Jaja, who had been demoted only eight months earlier for his anti-Syrian, Christiansupremacist stance. Fierce fighting raged within the Christian camp between partisans of Hubayka and Jaja. On January 16, Hubayka fled to Paris, and then to exile in Damascus. Hubayka's defeat was a major blow to Syrian prestige, and Syria retaliated by urging the militias it controlled to attack Christian areas. The Presidential Palace and Jumayyil's home town of Bikfayya were shelled, and a series of car bombs were detonated in East Beirut. But the Christians closed ranks around their beleaguered president, and the Tripartite Accord was never implemented. Jaja, emboldened by his restored power, then challenged Jumayyil and the Phalange Party directly. In July he announced the creation of the Free Lebanon Army, which was to be under his sole command and was to serve as his personal power base. But LF loyalists fought this plan. On September 27, a 3,000-man force loyal to Hubayka launched a surprise attack across the Green Line from Muslim West Beirut against East Beirut. Hubayka's men, supported by Syria and their erstwhile Muslim adversaries, forced back Jaja's militiamen, and the invasion was stopped only when the Lebanese Army's Tenth Brigade and the Lebanese Air Force entered the three-way fray on the side of the president.
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On July 4, 1986, Syrian troops entered West Beirut for the first time since being expelled during the 1982 Israeli invasion. Approximately 500 Syrian troops, working with the Lebanese Army and police, cleared roadblocks, closed militia offices, and collected weapons. In mid-February 1987, however, a new round of fighting broke out in West Beirut, this time between Druze and Shia militias, both of which were regarded as Syrian allies. The combat was described by witnesses as being of unrivaled intensity in twelve years of war, with the militiamen using formations of Soviet-made T-54 tanks that Syria had supplied to both sides. Five days of combat caused an estimated 700 casualties and set much of West Beirut aflame.
Syria acted decisively to stop the chaos in West Beirut, and it seized the opportunity to reimpose its hegemony over the areas in Lebanon from which it had been evicted by Israel in 1982. On February 22, 1987, it dispatched 7,500 troops, configured in two brigades and a battalion, from eastern Lebanon. The Syrian troops, most of whom were veteran commandos, closed down some seventy militia offices, rounded up and arrested militia leaders, confiscated arms caches, deployed troops along the major roads and at Beirut International Airport, established checkpoints, and sent squads on patrol in the streets.
The Syrian Army did not shy away from violence in its effort to restore order to the Lebanese capital. In the first two days of its police operation, Syrian troops shot some fifteen Lebanese of various militias. Then on February 24 a dozen trucks full of Syrian commandos entered the Basta neighborhood, a Shia stronghold, and attacked the Fathallah barracks, the headquarters of the Hizballah organization. There, Syrian troops killed eighteen Hizballah militants.
In mid-April the Syrian Army deployed troops south of Beirut. Approximately 100 Syrian commandos, fighting alongside soldiers of the Lebanese Army's Sixth Brigade, occupied key positions along the strategic coastal highway linking Beirut with southern Lebanon and took control of the bridge over the Awwali River, near Sidon.
By mid-1987 the Syrian Army appeared to have settled into Beirut for a protracted stay. Lebanon's anarchy was regarded by Syrian officials as an unacceptable risk to Syrian security. The government of Syria appeared prepared to occupy Beirut permanently, if necessary. The senior Syrian military commander in Lebanon, Brigadier General Ghazi Kanaan, said that militia rule of Lebanon had ended and that the Syrian intervention was "open-ended," implying that Syria would occupy West Beirut indefinitely. Meanwhile Syrian officials indicated that thousands of additional Syrian troops would probably be sent to Beirut to ensure stability. Kanaan declared that Syria would take full responsibility for the security of foreign embassies in West Beirut, and he invited foreign missions to return. Kanaan also promised that Syria would expend all possible efforts to secure the release of Western hostages held by Lebanese terrorists.
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Source: Federal Research Division - Library of Congress
(Edited by Thomas Collelo, December 1987)
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