Lebanese Civil War

From Academic Kids

The Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) had its origin in the conflicts and political compromises of Lebanon's colonial period and was exacerbated by the nation's changing demographic trends, Christian and Muslim inter-religious strife, and proximity to Syria and Israel. After the Civil War itself ended in 1976 civil strife continued, with the focus of the fighting primarily in south Lebanon, occupied first by the Palestine Liberation Organization, and then by Israel. Events and political movements that contributed to Lebanon's violent implosion include, among others, the departure of European colonial powers, the emergence of Arab Nationalism, Arab Socialism in the context of the Cold War, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Ba'athism, the Iranian Revolution, Palestinian terrorism, Black September in Jordan, Islamic fundamentalism, and the Iran-Iraq War.


Colonial roots, Palestinian influx, and demographic changes

Main article: History of Lebanon

Lebanon in its modern borders was established in 1920, as a French mandate granted by the League of Nations after the Conference of San Remo. The French added several districts to the Mutassarefia of Mount Lebanon to form "Greater Lebanon". These districts included heavily Sunni and Shia Muslim areas, which diluted the previous Maronite and Druze majority of Mount Lebanon. When independence was gained from France in 1943, an unwritten power-sharing agreement (known as the National Pact) was forged among the three major ethnic and religious groups: Maronite Christians then in the majority, Sunni Muslims, and Shi'ite Muslims. Soon after the nation's birth, it saw the arrival of Palestinian Christian and Muslim refugees from the 1948 war associated with the establishment of the State of Israel. Most were settled into camps in Southern Lebanon where they were excluded from mainstream society.

Demographic changes and formation of militias

By 1975 Maronite were only one-third of the total population of Lebanon and Shiite Muslims had become the largest religious community, destabilizing the previous balance of power. Constitutionally guaranteed Christian control of the government had come under increasing fire from Muslims and leftists, leading them to join forces as the National Movement in 1969, which called for the taking of a new census and the subsequent drafting of a new governmental structure that would reflect the census results. This would have been a mortal blow for Christian (especially Maronite) power in Lebanon, although alliances were admittedly much more complex than the "Muslims versus Christians" rubric posited by Maronite leaders.

Muslim and Maronite leaders were unable to reconcile their conflicts of interest and formed militias, undermining the authority of the central government. The government's ability to maintain order was also handicapped by the nature of the Lebanese Army. One of the smallest in the Middle East, it was composed based on a fixed ratio of religions, and as members defected to militias of their own ethnicity, the Army would eventually prove unable to contain the militias, the PLO, or other foreign-backed groups.

Maronite militias armed by West Germany and Belgium drew supporters from the larger and poorer Christian population in the north of the country. The most powerful of these was Kataeb, also known as Phalange, led by Bachir Gemayel, and others included the Lebanese Forces led by Samir Geagea and the Guardians of the Cedars.

Shi'ite militias such as the Amal militia fought the Maronites as well as Palestinian groups and occasionally other Shi'ite organizations. Some Sunni factions received support from Libya and Iraq. The Soviet Union encouraged Arab socialist movements that spawned leftist Palestinian organizations such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. These were outnumbered by Lebanese Druze militias. Later, the rise of Ba'athism in Syria and Iraq was paralleled by a surge of Lebanese Ba'athists, including groups such as Saiqa, a Syrian aligned Ba'athist party, and the Arab Liberation Front, an Iraqi aligned Ba'athist movement.

This volatile mix of factions was further stirred up by the political instability of nearby Jordan and the arrival en masse in South Lebanon of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Regional Conflict and the PLO

While domestic political tension was building, Lebanon was drawn into the broader regional conflict. In 1970, the PLO was expelled from Jordan by King Hussein after the events of Black September, and its Chairman Yasser Arafat regrouped his organization in the Palestinian refugee areas of Beirut and south Lebanon. The paralysis of the Lebanese government suited Arafat, who wanted to carve out a "state within a state" in southern Lebanon similar to the one he had administered in the West Bank, and the mostly Muslim PLO was welcomed by the Lebanese Muslims and the Druze as an ally in the conflict with the Maronites.

The National Movement attracted support from the PLO "Rejection Front" faction, prominently including the PFLP, although Arafat and Fatah, representing PLO "moderates," initially sought to remain neutral in the conflict.

In return for applying pressure on the Maronites, the PLO was given a safe haven and a launch pad for attacks on Israel, and effectively became the largest private militia in the nation. Maronites viewed the PLO as a disruptive force and as an ally of the Muslim factions.

Conflict ignites

On the morning of April 13, 1975, unidentified gunmen in a speeding car fired on a church in the Christian East Beirut suburb of Ain Rammanah, killing 4 people, including two Maronite Phalangists. Later that day Phalangists led by the Gemayels, killed 27 Palestinians travelling on a bus in Ein Al-Rumaneh. In December, 1975, four Christians were killed in east Beirut, and in growing reprisals, Phalangists and Muslim militias subsequently massacred at least 600 Muslims and Christians at checkpoints, igniting the 1975-1976 civil war.

The Civil War, Civilian Massacres, and Syrian intervention 1975–81

In January 1976, the Saika (a Pro-Syrian Palestinian militia) attacked the Christian city of Damour. When the city fell on 23 January, the inhabitants were subject to rape, mutilation and brutal assassination. The reported casualties amounted to 582 people. As a result of the massacre, most Christians began to see the Palestinian presence as a short-term threat to their survival. Moreover, the Lebanese left (that enjoyed some popularity in the Christian community and especially in the poorest classes) lost most of its legitimacy because of its support for the Palestinian cause.

The fighting eventually spread to most parts of the country, precipitating President Suleiman Franjieh's call for support from Syrian troops in June 1976, to which Syria responded by ending its prior affiliation with the Rejection Front and supporting the Maronites. This technically put Syria in the Israeli camp, as Israel had already begun to supply Maronite forces with arms, tanks, and military advisors in May 1976. (Smith, op. cit., 354.)

Meanwhile, Arafat's Fatah movement joined the war on the side of the National Movement.

In June, 1976, with fighting throughout the country and the Maronites on the verge of defeat, the President called for Syrian intervention. Damour's massacre made Frangieh fear further massacres and he thought that only Syria could save the christians from a slaughter. Syria had its own political and territorial interests in Lebanon, which harbored the fundamentalist anti-Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. Syrian troops subsequently entered Lebanon, occupying Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley, and imposed a ceasefire (Fisk, pp. 78-81) that ultimately failed to stop the conflict.

After the arrival of Syrian troops, Christian forces massacred 2,000 Palestinians in the Tel al-Za'atar camp in East Beirut [1] (http://www.wsws.org/articles/2000/jun2000/assa-j16.shtml). Other massacres by both sides were committed at Karantina and Damour, where the PLO murdered 350 Christian civilians (Fisk, 99). the nation was informally divided, with southern Lebanon and the western half of Beirut becoming bases for the PLO and other Muslim militias, and the Christians in control of East Beirut and the Christian section of Mt. Lebanon. The main confrontation line in divided Beirut was known as the Green Line.

In October 1976, an Arab League summit in Riyadh 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. The Lebanese Civil War was officially ended 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 return of PLO combatants, who had been required to vacate central Lebanon under the terms of the Riyadh Accords.

Israeli invasion, 1978 and 1981-2

On 11 March 1978, eight Fatah militants landed on a beach in northern Israel and proceeded to take control of a passenger bus and head toward Tel Aviv. In the ensuing confrontation with Israeli forces, 34 Israelis and six of the militants died. In retaliation, Israel invaded Lebanon four days later in Operation Litani in which the IDF occupied most of the area south of the Litani River, resulting in the evacuation of at least 100,000 Lebanese (Smith, op. cit., 356), as well as approximately 2,000 deaths (Newsweek, 27 March 1978; Time, 3 April 1978; cited in Chomsky, Towards a New Cold War, p. 485 n115). The UN Security Council passed Resolution 425 calling for an immediate Israeli withdrawal and creating the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), charged with maintaining peace. Israeli forces withdrew later in 1978; however, Israel retained de facto control of the border region by turning over positions inside Lebanon to the South Lebanon Army (SLA) under the leadership of Major Saad Haddad.

Israel, meanwhile, had been supplying Haddad's forces, an effort which intensified in 1977 with the election of new Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, who compared the plight of the Maronite minority in southern Lebanon - then about 5% of the population in Haddad's vicinity - to that of European Jews during World War II (Smith, op. cit., 355.). The SLA occupied Shi'a villages in the south, informally setting up a 12-mile wide "security zone" that protected Israeli territory from crossborder attack.

Violent exchanges resumed between the PLO, Israel, and the SLA, with the PLO attacking SLA positions and firing rockets into northern Israel; Israel conducting air raids against PLO positions; and the SLA continuing its efforts to consolidate its power in the border region.

Syria against Phalange

Syria, meanwhile, clashed with the above-mentioned Phalange, a Maronite militia led by Bashir Gemayel, whose increasingly aggressive actions - such as his April 1981 attempt to capture the strategic city of Zahle in central Lebanon - were designed to thwart the Syrian goal of brushing aside Gemayel and installing Sulayman Franjiyah as president. Consequently, the de facto alliance between Israel and Gemayel strengthened considerably: in the April 1981 fighting in Zahle, for example, Gemayel called for Israeli assistance, and Begin responded by sending Israeli fighter jets to the scene, which shot down two Syrian helicopters. (Smith, op. cit., p. 373.) This led to the decision by Syrian president Hafiz al-Assad to place ground-to-air missiles on the hilly perimeter of Zahle.

Influence of the PLO

Arafat also encouraged ongoing PLO militancy originating in Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It was in this context that Israeli forces attacked Palestinian positions in July 1981, provoking retaliatory shelling by the PLO; the Israeli response to this shelling culminated in the aerial bombardment of a West Beirut suburb where Fatah's headquarters were located, killing 200 and wounding 600, most of whom were civilians (Smith, op. cit., p. 376). The PLO rejoinder was a huge rocket attack on towns and villages in northern Israel, leaving six civilians dead and wounding 59 (Ibid.). These exchanges prompted diplomatic intervention by the United States, again in the person of US diplomat Philip Habib who was dispatched to the region to head off further escalation, which he successfully did via an agreement concluded in May.

On July 24, 1981, Habib brokered a cease-fire agreement with the PLO and Israel: the two sides agreed to cease hostilities in Lebanon proper and along the Israeli border with Lebanon.

In August, Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin was re-elected, and in September, Begin and his defense minister Ariel Sharon began to lay plans for a second invasion of Lebanon for the purpose of driving out the PLO. Sharon's intention was to "destroy the PLO military infrastructure and, if possible, the PLO leadership itself; this would mean attacking West Beirut, where the PLO headquarters and command bunkers were located" (Smith, op. cit., p. 377). Sharon also wanted to "ensure the presidency of Bashir Gemayel, to be elected under Israeli auspices....As a payment for Israeli assistance, Sharon expected Gemayel, once installed as president, to sign a peace treaty with Israel, presumably stabilizing forever Israel's northern border" (Ibid.). Begin brought Sharon's plan before the Knesset in December 1981; however, after strong objections were raised, Begin felt compelled to set the plan aside. But Sharon continued to press the issue. In January 1982, Sharon met with Gemayel on an Israeli vessel off the coast of Lebanon and discussed a plan "that would bring Israeli forces as far north as the edge of Beirut International Airport" (Time, 15 February 1982, cited in Chomsky, op. cit., 195). In February, with Begin's input, Yehoshua Seguy, the chief of military intelligence, was sent to Washington to discuss the issue of Lebanon with Secretary of State Alexander Haig. In the meeting, Haig "stressed that there could be no assault without a major provocation from Lebanon" (Smith, op. cit., p. 378).

Thus far, there had not been such a provocation; in fact, during the entire effective period of the cease-fire, August 1981 to May 1982, there was a total of one PLO rocket attack from Lebanese territory, in May. The attack was a retaliation for Israel's 9 May bombing of PLO positions in Lebanon, which was itself a retaliation for the PLO bombing of a Jerusalem bus. (Chomsky, op. cit., p. 196-7.) This particular exchange points up a central problem with the cease-fire from the Israeli perspective: it applied only to the border with Lebanon, meaning that PLO attacks from other locations, such as Jordan and the West Bank, could (and did) continue unabated, while an Israeli response directed against the PLO in Lebanon would technically be a violation of the cease-fire. Arafat, for his part, refused to condemn attacks occurring outside of Lebanon, on the grounds that the cease-fire was only relevant to the Lebanese theater. (Smith, op. cit., p. 376). Arafat's interpretation underscored the fact that the cease-fire agreement did nothing to address ongoing violence between the PLO and Israel in other theaters. Israel thus continued to weather PLO attacks throughout the cease-fire period; at the same time, it violated the terms of the cease-fire by committing "2125 violations of Lebanese airspace and 652 violations of Lebanese territorial waters" from August 1981 to May 1982, including the abovementioned 9 May bombing and the 21 April bombing of coastal PLO targets south of Beirut (Chomsky, op. cit., p. 195; the figures on territorial violations are cited by Alexander Cockburn & James Ridgeway, Village Voice, 22 June 1982, quoting UN records).

In 1981, armed forces of the PLO occupied large areas of southern Lebanon and increased attacks on Israel with rockets and artillery while also engaging Lebanese forces and killing civilians. (Fifteen years later, in 1996, the World Lebanese Organization, the World Maronite Union, and human rights groups concerned with the Middle East accused the PLO of genocide in Lebanon, blaming them for the deaths of 100,000 Lebanese civilians).

Israeli-PLO hostilities persisted until an interim cease-fire including Israel, the PLO, and Syria was brokered by Philip Habib of the United States in 1981, but the PLO continued to fire rockets into northern Israel, while Israel continued aerial and naval reconnaissance. Consequently, Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon began to lay plans to drive the PLO away from Israel's northern border by invading Lebanon [2] (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/myths/mf11.html#b).

On 3 June 1982, the Abu Nidal Organization attempted to assassinate Israeli ambassador Shlomo Argov in London. As mentioned, Abu Nidal had assassinated a PLO diplomat in 1980, and had in fact been condemned to death by the PLO (Chomsky, op. cit., p. 196). Additionally, British intelligence reported that the attempt had likely been sponsored by Iraq, and Israeli intelligence agreed; however, none of this dissuaded Sharon and Begin, who ordered a retaliatory aerial attack on PLO and PFLP targets in West Beirut that led to over 100 casualties (Smith, op. cit., p. 378), a clear violation of the cease-fire.

The PLO responded by launching a counterattack from Lebanon with rockets and artillery, also a clear violation of the cease-fire; Israel declared that this was the immediate cause of its subsequent decision to invade. Meanwhile, on 5 June, the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution (UNSCR 509) 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." [3] (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/UN/unres508.html).

On June 6, 1982 Israeli forces launched Operation Peace for Galilee, attacking PLO bases in Lebanon. Israeli forces quickly drove 25 miles into Lebanon, moving into East Beirut with the 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; in fact, Israeli chief of staff Rafael Eitan and Sharon had already ordered the invading forces to head straight for Beirut, in accord with Sharon's blueprint dating to September 1981. After the invasion had begun, the UN Security Council passed a further resolution on 6 June, UNSCR 509, which reaffirms UNSCR 508 and "Demands that Israel withdraw all its military forces forthwith and unconditionally to the internationally recognized boundaries of Lebanon" [4] (http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/lebanon/res509.htm). Thus far the US had not used its veto; however, on 8 June, the US vetoed a proposed resolution that "Reiterates [the] demand that Israel withdraw all its military forces forthwith and unconditionally to the internationally recognized boundaries of Lebanon" [5] (http://domino.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/ac89a782537a6d500525653100617a17?OpenDocument), thereby giving an implicit nod of assent to the Israeli invasion.

By 15 June, 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 16,000 PLO troops 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. The fighting in Beirut resulted in approximately 6,700 deaths, 80 percent civilian, with 1100 PLO deaths against 88 for the IDF; fierce artillery duels between the IDF and the PLO, and PLO shelling of Christian neighborhoods of East Beirut at the outset gave way to escalating aerial IDF bombardment beginning on 21 July [6] (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/2002/MOUTGawrych.htm). It is commonly estimated that during the entire campaign, approximately 20,000 were killed on all sides, including many civilians. 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 kilometres 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" [7] (http://domino.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/d441628eb0b68ad205256531005fa3eb?OpenDocument); the United States vetoed the resolution because it was "a transparent attempt to preserve the P.L.O. as a viable political force" (New York Times, 27 June 1982, cited in Chomsky, op. cit., p. 198), an indication of Washington's support for Sharon's objective of destroying the PLO before it could negotiate a withdrawal agreement. 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 Sharon'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. Nearly 15,000 Palestinian militants had been evacuated to other countries - in the case of Arafat and the PLO, Tunisia - by 1 September.

Following the attempted assassination of an Israeli diplomat in London by the Palestinian Abu Nidal Organization Israel bombed PLO targets in south Lebanon. The PLO then fired rockets at Israeli towns.

At first, some Lebanese welcomed the Israelis and their promise of improved living conditions in regions under PLO control, but as the occupation grew from weeks to months, popular resentment against Israel increased. It is estimated that during the entire campaign 19,000 were killed and 30,000 were wounded.

Siege of Beirut

On 13 June, Israel laid siege to Beirut, which contained 15,000 armed members of the PLO, and over a period of weeks the PLO and IDF exchanged artillery fire. On a number of occasions, the Palestinians directed their fire into Christian east Beirut, causing an estimated 6,700 killed of which 80 percent were civilians.[8] (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/2002/MOUTGawrych.htm)[9] (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/myths/mf11.html#e). Within six months, Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon, but maintained the "security zone" along the Israeli-Lebanese border.

International intervention: 1981–84

A multinational force landed in Beirut on August 20, 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 and Italian units.

However, Israel claimed that some 2,000 PLO militants were hiding in Palestinian refugee camps on the outskirts of Beirut. Accordingly, on 12 September, Bashir Gemayel, who had been elected president under Israeli military control on 23 August, agreed to send troops from his Phalange militia into the camps. Then, on 14 September, Gemayel was assassinated. After conferring with Phalange leaders, Sharon and Eitan bypassed the Israeli cabinet and sent Israeli troops into West Beirut, violating the Habib agreement; these troops helped transport approximately 200 Phalange personnel to the camps, which the Phalangists entered on 16 September at 6:00 P.M. The Phalangists remained in the camps until the morning of 19 September, massacring 700-800 Palestinians, according to official Israeli statistics, "none apparently members of any PLO unit" (Smith, op. cit., 380-1). The Kahan Commission, set up by the Israeli government to investigate the circumstances of the massacre, held Sharon and Eitan indirectly responsible, concluding that the Israeli officials should have known what would happen if they sent 200 anti-Palestinian militants into Palestinian refugee camps. The Commission recommended that Sharon resign his post as Defense Minister, which he did, though he remained in the government as an influential Minister without Portfolio (Chomsky, op. cit., 406). See Sabra and Shatila massacre

Assassination and continued massacres

Bachir Gemayel was elected to the Lebanese presidency with acknowledged Israeli backing, but on 14 September, 1982 he was assassinated. The next day, Israeli troops crossed into West Beirut to secure Muslim militia strongholds and stood back as Lebanese Christian militias massacred approximately 1000-2000 Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Ariel Sharon was held indirectly responsible by the Israeli Kahan Commission and later resigned. With U.S. backing, Amine Gemayel was chosen by the Lebanese parliament to succeed his brother as President and focused anew on securing the withdrawal of Israeli and Syrian forces. With U.S. backing, Amine Gemayel, chosen by the Lebanese parliament to succeed his brother as president, focused anew on securing the withdrawal of Israeli and Syrian forces. On 17 May 1983, Lebanon, Israel, and the United States signed an agreement on Israeli withdrawal that was conditioned on the departure of Syrian troops. Syria opposed the agreement and declined to discuss the withdrawal of its troops, effectively stalemating further progress. In August 1983, Israel withdrew from the Shuf (southeast of Beirut), thus removing the buffer between the Druze and the Christian militias and triggering another round of brutal fighting. By September, the Druze had gained control over most of the Shuf, and Israeli forces had pulled out from all but the southern security zone; the IDF would remain in this zone, in violation of UN Security Council resolution 425, until the year 2000. 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. With the U.S. Marines looking ready to withdraw, Syria and Muslim groups stepped up pressure on Gemayal. On 5 March the Lebanese Government canceled the 17 May agreement; the Marines departed a few weeks later.

This period of chaos witnessed the beginning of retaliatory attacks launched against U.S. and Western interests, such as the 18 April 1983 suicide attack at the U.S. Embassy in West Beirut (63 dead). Then, on 23 October, in the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing which hit the headquarters of the U.S. (241 US servicemen killed) and French (58 French servicemen killed), the multinational force was the target of a devastating suicide bombing; following the embassy bombing, the Reagan White House had previously "ordered naval bombardments of Druze positions, which resulted in numerous casualties, mostly non-combatant," and the "reply to the American bombardments" was the suicide attack (Smith, op. cit., 383). Months later, American University of Beirut President Malcolm Kerr was murdered on January 18, 1984. After US forces withdrew in February 1984 anti-West terrorism continued including a second bombing of the U.S. Embassy annex in East Beirut on 20 September 1984 (9 dead,including 2 US servicemen).

Concurrently, Hizballah emerged from a loose coalition of Shi'a groups, and after the 1979 Iranian Revolution they were supported by 1500 Iranian Revolutionary Guards (see: Hezbollah.)

Terrorism and international withdrawal, 1983

This period of chaos also witnessed the beginning of attacks launched against U.S. and Western interests, including

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, and with the U.S. Marines looking ready to withdraw, Syria and Muslim groups stepped up pressure on Gemayal. On 5 March the Lebanese Government canceled the May 17 agreement and the Marines departed a few weeks later.

Worsening conflict and political crisis: 1985–89

Between 1985 and 1989, factional conflict worsened as various efforts at national reconciliation failed. Heavy fighting took place in the "War of the Camps" in 1985 and 1986 as the Shi'a Muslim Amal militia sought to rout the Palestinians from Lebanese strongholds. Many thousands of Palestinians died in the War of the Camps. Sabra, Chatila, and Bourj al-Barajneh were reduced to ashes. "High Wood on the Somme could not have looked much worse." (Fisk, 609)

The combat returned to Beirut in 1987, with 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 Hizballah.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Rashid Karami, head of a government of national unity set up after the failed peace efforts of 1984, was assassinated on June 1, 1987. 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 Iraqi involvement, as the Sunni and Shi'a groups were seen as proxies in the Iran-Iraq War. To counter Iran's influence through Amal and Hezbollah, Iraq backed its own groups; Saddam Hussein helped Michel Aoun between 1988-1990.[11] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/inatl/longterm/iraq/keyplayers/saddam081290.htm)

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 Christian government in East Beirut and a Muslim government in West Beirut, with no President.

In February 1989 Aoun attacked the rival Lebanese Forces militia. By March he turned his attention to other militias, launching what he termed a "War of Liberation" against the Syrians and their Lebanese militia allies. In the months that followed, Aoun rejected both the agreement that ultimately ended the civil war and the election of another Christian leader as president. A Lebanese-Syrian military operation in October 1990 forced him to take cover in the French Embassy in Beirut and later into exile in Paris, where he remained until May 2005.

End of the Civil Strife: 1989–91

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, had begun to formulate solutions to the conflict, leading to a meeting of Lebanese parliamentarians in Ta'if, Saudi Arabia, where they agreed to the national reconciliation accord in October. Returning to Lebanon, they ratified the agreement on November 4 and elected Rene Mouawad as President the following day.

Mouawad was assassinated 18 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.

In August 1990, parliament and the new president agreed on constitutional amendments embodying some of the political reforms envisioned at Taif. The National Assembly expanded to 108 seats and was divided equally between Christians and Muslims.

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 Hizballah) 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.


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. Only the radical Shi'a party Hezbollah retains its weapons.

Lebanon still bears deep scars from the civil war. In all, it is estimated that more than 100,000 people were killed, and another 100,000 handicapped by injuries. Up to one-fifth of the pre-war population, or about 900,000 people, were displaced from their homes, and perhaps a quarter of a million emigrated permanently. Thousands of land mines remain buried in the previously contested areas. Some Western hostages kidnapped by Hezbollah during the mid-1980s were held until May 1992.

The country has made progress toward rebuilding its political institutions and regaining its national sovereignty since the end of the war, establishing a political system that gives Muslims a greater say in the political process. Critics, however, charge that the new arrangements institutionalize sectarian divisions in the government.

External links

Book References

  • Death of a country: The civil war in Lebanon. Bulloch John (1977) ISBN 0297772880
  • Syria and the Lebanese Crisis Dawisha A. I. (1980) ISBN 0312782039
  • Syria's Terrorist War on Lebanon and the Peace Process Deeb Marius (2003) ISBN 1403962480
  • Lebanon: Fire and Embers : A History of the Lebanese Civil War by Hiro, Dilip (1993) ISBN 0312097247
  • Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War Fisk, Robert (2001) ISBN 0192801309
  • Lebanon in Crisis: Participants and Issues (Contemporary Issues in the Middle East) Haley P. Edward , Snider Lewis W. (1979) ISBN 0815622104
  • Faces of Lebanon: Sects, Wars, and Global Extensions (Princeton Series on the Middle East)Harris William W (1997) ISBN 1558761152
  • History of Syria Including Lebanon and Palestine, Vol. 2 Hitti Philip K. (2002) ISBN 1931956618
  • The Breakdown of the State in Lebanon, 1967-1976 Khazen Farid El (2000) ISBN 0674081056
  • The Bullet Collection, a book by Patricia Ward, is an excellent account of human experience during the Lebanese Civil War.
  • Civil War in Lebanon, 1975-92 O'Ballance Edgar (1998) ISBN 0312215932
  • Lebanon: A Shattered Country: Myths and Realities of the Wars in Lebanon, Revised Edition Picard, Elizabeth (2002) ISBN 084191415X
  • The War for Lebanon, 1970-1985 Rabinovich Itamar (1985) ISBN 0801493137
  • Crossroads to Civil War: Lebanon 1958-1976 Salibi Kamal S. (1976) ISBN 0882060104
  • The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians Noam Chomsky (1983, 1999) ISBN 0896086011

Online Reference

Additional Resources

ar:حرب أهلية لبنانية bg:Ливанска гражданска война de:Libanesischer Brgerkrieg fr:Guerre du Liban ja:レバノン内戦


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