278,228 Pages

Lebanese Civil War
Martyrs Square 1982
The Martyr's Square statue in Beirut, 1982, during the civil war
Date 13 April 1975 – 13 October 1990
(15 years and 6 months)
Location Lebanon
  • Taif Agreement
    • Christian 6:5 ascendancy replaced by 1:1 representation
    • Muslim prime-ministerial powers strengthened
  • PLO expulsion from Lebanon
  • Syrian occupation of most of Lebanon
  • Israeli occupation of South Lebanon
Flag of Lebanon.svg LF
22px SLA (from 1976)
Flag of Israel.svg Israel (from 1978)

Tigers Militia (until 1980)

Marada Brigades (left LF in 1978; aligned with Syria)

Lebanon LNM (until 1982)
Lebanon LNRF (from 1982)
Flag of Palestine PLO

Flag of the Amal Movement.svg Amal Movement

(from 1985)

Flag of Jihad.svg Islamic Unification Movement (from 1982)

Lebanon LAF

United Nations UNIFIL (from 1978)
Multinational Force in Lebanon (1982–1984)

Flag of the Arab League.svg Arab Deterrent Force (1976–1983)
Syria Syria (from 1983) </td>

Commanders and leaders
Flag of Kataeb Party.svg Bachir Gemayel
Flag of Kataeb Party.svg Amine Gemayel
Flag of Kataeb Party.svg William Hawi
Forces Libanaises Flag.svg Samir Geagea
Lebanon Michel Aoun
Etienne Saqr
Al-Tanzim logo Georges Adwan
22px Saad Haddad
22px Antoine Lahad
Israel Menachem Begin
Israel Ariel Sharon

Dany Chamoun

Tony Frangieh
Suleiman Frangieh

Flag of the Progressive Socialist Party.svg Kamal Jumblatt
Flag of the Progressive Socialist Party.svg Walid Jumblatt
Flag of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.svg Inaam Raad
Flag of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.svg Abdallah Saadeh
Flag of the Lebanese Communist Party.svg George Hawi
Flag of the Lebanese Communist Party.svg Elias Atallah
Socialist red flag.svg Muhsin Ibrahim
Flag of Mourabitoun.gif Ibrahim Kulaylat
Ali Eid
Palestinian territories Yasser Arafat
Palestinian territories George Habash

Flag of the Amal Movement.svg Nabih Berri

Abbas al-Musawi

Flag of Jihad.svg Said Shaaban

United Nations Emmanuel A. Erskine
United Nations William O'Callaghan
United Nations Gustav Hägglund
United States Timothy J. Geraghty

Syria Hafez al-Assad
Syria Mustafa Tlass </td>

120,000–150,000 people killed[1]

</td> </tr></table>

The Lebanese Civil War (Arabic language: الحرب الأهلية اللبنانيةAl-Ḥarb al-Ahliyyah al-Libnāniyyah) was a multifaceted civil war in Lebanon, lasting from 1975 to 1990 and resulting in an estimated 120,000[2][3] fatalities. Today approximately 76,000 people remain displaced within Lebanon.[4] There was also a mass exodus of almost one million people from Lebanon as a result of the war.[5]

The government of Lebanon had been dominated by Maronite Christians.[6] The link between politics and religion had been reinforced under the mandate of the French colonial powers from 1920 to 1943, and the parliamentary structure favoured a leading position for the Christians. However, the country had a large Muslim population and many pan-Arabist and Left Wing groups which opposed the pro-western government.The establishment of the state of Israel and the displacement of a hundred thousand Palestinian refugees to Lebanon changed the demographic balance in favour of the Muslim population. The Cold War had a powerful disintegrative effect on Lebanon, which was closely linked to the polarization that preceded the 1958 political crisis, since Maronites sided with the West while Left Wing and pan-Arab groups sided with Soviet aligned Arab countries.[7]

The militarization of the Palestinian refugee population, with the arrival of the PLO forces after their expulsion from Jordan during Black September, sparked an arms race amongst the different Lebanese political factions[citation needed] and provided a foundation for the long-term involvement of Lebanon in regional conflicts. Fighting between Maronite and Palestinian forces began in 1975, and Left Wing, pan-Arabist and Muslim Lebanese groups later allied themselves with the Palestinians.[citation needed] During the course of the fighting, alliances shifted rapidly and unpredictably: by the end of the war, nearly every party had allied with and subsequently betrayed every other party at least once.[citation needed] Furthermore, foreign powers, such as Israel and Syria, meddled in the war and fought alongside different factions. Peace keeping forces, such as the Multinational Force in Lebanon and UNIFIL, were also stationed in Lebanon.

The Taif Agreement of 1989 marked the beginning of the end of the fighting. In January of that 1989, a committee appointed by the Arab League began to formulate solutions to the conflict. In March 1991, parliament passed an amnesty law that pardoned all political crimes prior to its enactment.[8] In May 1991, the militias were dissolved, with the exception of Hezbollah and the Lebanese Armed Forces began to slowly rebuild themselves as Lebanon's only major non-sectarian institutions.[9]


Colonial ruleEdit

In 1860 foreign interests transformed sociopolitical struggles into bitter religious conflicts. A civil war between Druze and Maronites erupted in the Ottoman province of Mount Lebanon and resulted in the death of about 10,000 people. The commission members agreed that the partition of Mount Lebanon in 1842 between the Druze and the Maronites had been responsible for the massacre.


Soldiers in Mount Lebanon during the mutasarrif period

In 1918 the Ottoman rule in Lebanon and Syria ended. These were hard times for the Lebanese; while the rest of the world was occupied with the World War, the people in Lebanon were suffering from a famine that would last nearly four years.

France took control of the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon after WW1. The French created the state of Greater Lebanon as a safe haven for the Maronites, but included a large Muslim population within the borders. In 1926, Lebanon was declared a republic, and a constitution was adopted. However, the constitution was suspended in 1932 due to upheaval: some factions demanded unity with Syria, whilst a larger number demanded independence from the French.[10] In 1934, the country's first (and only to date) census was conducted.

In 1936 the Maronite Phalange party was founded by Pierre Gemayel.


Lebanon was promised independence and on 22 November 1943 it was achieved. French troops, who had invaded Lebanon in 1941 to rid Beirut of the Vichy forces, left the country in 1946. The Maronites assumed power over the country and economy. A confessional parliament was created, where Muslims and Christians were given quotas of seats in parliament. Accordingly, the President was to be a Maronite, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the Speaker of Parliament a Shia Muslim.

During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War an exodus of Palestinian refugees arrived in Lebanon. Palestinians came to play a very important role in future Lebanese civil conflicts, whilst the establishment of Israel radically changed the local environment in which Lebanon found itself.

Foxhole - Lebanon - Beirut - July 1958

U.S. Marine sits in a foxhole outside Beirut, 1958

In July 1958, Lebanon was threatened by a civil war between Maronite Christians and Muslims. President Camille Chamoun had attempted to break the stranglehold on Lebanese politics exercised by traditional political families in Lebanon. These families maintained their electoral appeal by cultivating strong client-patron relations with their local communities. But this prevented the emergence of an educated political class into the parliament. Although he succeeded in sponsoring alternative political candidates to enter the elections in 1957, causing the traditional families to lose their positions, these families then embarked upon a war with Chamoun, referred to as the War of the Pashas. However, as always and due to Lebanon's open media and political society, regional tensions were used as an excuse to mount the insurrection by the excluded political bosses.

In previous years, tensions with Egypt had escalated in 1956 when the non-aligned President, Camille Chamoun, did not break off diplomatic relations with the Western powers that attacked Egypt during the Suez Crisis, angering Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Chamoun has often been called pro-Western, yet he had signed several trade deals with the Soviet union (see Gendzier). However Nasser had attacked Chamoun because of his suspected support for the US led Baghdad Pact. Nasser felt that the pro-western Baghdad Pact posed a threat to Arab Nationalism. Lebanon however historically had a small cosmetic army that was never effective in defending Lebanon's territorial integrity, and this is why in later years the PLO guerrilla factions had found it easy to enter Lebanon and set up bases, as well as takeover army barracks on the border with Israel as early as 1968. Yezid Sayigh documents the early skirmishes which saw the army not only lose control over its barracks to the occupying PLO but also lost many soldiers. However prior to this, aware of the country's vulnerability to outside forces, president Chamoun looked to regional pacts to ensure protection from foreign armies.

But his Lebanese Sunni Muslim Prime Minister Rashid Karami supported Nasser in 1956 and 1958. Lebanese Muslims pushed the government to join the newly created United Arab Republic, a country formed out of the unification of Syria and Egypt, while the majority of Lebanese and especially the Maronites wanted to keep Lebanon as an independent nation with its own independent parliament. President Camille feared the toppling of his government and asked for U.S intervention. At the time the U.S was engaged in the Cold War. Chamoun asked for assistance proclaiming that communism was going to overthrow his government. Chamoun however was not only responding to the revolt of former political bosses, but also to the fact that both Egypt and Syria had taken the opportunity to deploy proxies into the Lebanese conflict. Thus the Arab National Movement (ANM), led by George Habash and later to become the Progressive Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)and a faction of the PLO, were deployed to Lebanon by Nasser. The ANM were a clandestine militia implicated in attempted coups against both the Jordanian monarchy and the Iraqi president throughout the 1950s at Nasser's bidding. The founding members of Fatah, including Yasser Arafat and Khalil Wazir also flew to Lebanon to use the insurrection as a means by which a war could be fomented towards Israel. They participated in the fighting by directing armed forces against the government security in the city of Tripoli according to Yezid Sayigh's work.

In that year, President Chamoun was unable to convince the Maronite army commander, Fuad Chehab to use the armed forces against Muslim demonstrators, fearing that getting involved in internal politics would split his small and weak multi-confessional force. The Phalange militia came to the president's aid instead to bring a final end to the road blockades which were crippling the major cities. Encouraged by its efforts during this conflict, later that year, principally through violence and the success of general strikes in Beirut, the Phalange achieved what journalists dubbed the "counterrevolution." By their actions the Phalangists brought down the government of Prime Minister Karami and secured for their leader, Pierre Gemayel, a position in the four-man cabinet that was subsequently formed.

However estimates of the Phalange's membership by Yezid Sayigh and other academic sources put them at a few thousand. Non-academic sources tend to inflate the Phalanges membership. What should be kept in mind was that this insurrection was met with widespread disapproval by many Lebanese who wanted no part in the regional politics and many young men aided the Phalange in their suppression of the insurrection, especially as many of the demonstrators were little more than proxy forces hired by groups such as the ANM and Fatah founders as well as being hired by the defeated parliamentary bosses.

Demographic tensionsEdit

During the 1960s Lebanon was relatively calm, but this would soon change. Fatah and other Palestinian Liberation Organization factions had long been active among the 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanese camps. Throughout the 1960s, the center for armed Palestinian activities had been in Jordan, but they were forced to relocate after being evicted by King Hussein during the Black September in Jordan. Fatah and other Palestinians groups had attempted to mount a coup in Jordan by incentivizing a split in the Jordanian army, something that the ANM had attempted to do a decade earlier by Nasser's bidding. Jordan however responded and expelled the forces into Lebanon. When they arrived they created a "a State within the State". This action wasn't welcomed by the Lebanese government and this shook Lebanon's fragile sectarian climate.

Solidarity to the Palestinians was expressed through the Lebanese Sunni Muslims but with the aim to change the political system from one of consensus amongst different sects, towards one where their power share would increase. Certain groups in the Lebanese National Movement wished to bring about a more secular and democratic order, but as this group increasingly included Islamist groups, encouraged to join by the PLO, the more progressive demands of the initial agenda was dropped by January 1976. Islamists did not support a secular order in Lebanon and wished to bring about rule by Muslim clerics. Yezid Sayigh documents these events, especially the role of Fatah and the Tripoli Islamist movement known as Tawhid, in changing the agenda being pursued by many groups, including Communists. This rag-tag coalition has often been referred to as left-wing, but many participants were actually very conservative religious elements that did not share any broader ideological agenda; rather, they were brought together by the short term goal of overthrowing the established political order, each motivated by their own grievances.

These forces enabled the PLO / Fatah (Fatah constituted 80% of the membership of the PLO and Fatah guerrillas controlled most of its institutions now) to transform the Western Part of Beirut into its stronghold. The PLO had taken over the heart of Sidon and Tyre in the early 1970s, it controlled great swathes of south Lebanon, in which the indigenous Shiite population had to suffer the humiliation of passing through PLO checkpoints and now they had worked their way by force into Beirut. The PLO did this with the assistance of so-called volunteers from Libya and Algeria shipped in through the ports it controlled, as well as a number of Sunni Lebanese groups who had been trained and armed by PLO/ Fatah and encouraged to declare themselves as separate militias. However as Rex Brynen makes clear in his publication on the PLO, these militias were nothing more than "shop-fronts" or in Arabic "Dakakin" for Fatah, armed gangs with no ideological foundation and no organic reason for their existence save the fact their individual members were put on PLO/ Fatah payroll.

The strike of fishermen at Sidon in February 1975 could also be considered the first important episode that set off the outbreak of hostilities. That event involved a specific issue: the attempt of former President Camille Chamoun (also head of the Maronite-oriented National Liberal Party) to monopolize fishing along the coast of Lebanon. The injustices perceived by the fishermen evoked sympathy from many Lebanese and reinforced the resentment and antipathy that were widely felt against the state and the economic monopolies. The demonstrations against the fishing company were quickly transformed into a political action supported by the political left and their allies in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The state tried to suppress the demonstrators, and a sniper reportedly killed a popular figure in the city, the former Mayor of Sidon, Maarouf Saad.

Many non-academic sources claim a government sniper killed Saad, however there is no evidence to support such a claim, and it appears that whoever had killed him had intended for what began as a small and quiet demonstration to evolve into something more. The sniper targeted Saad right at the end of the demonstration as it was dissipating. Farid Khazen, sourcing the local histories of Sidon academics and eye-witnesses, gives a run-down of the puzzling events of the day that based on their research. Other interesting facts that Khazen reveals, based on the Sidon academic's work including that Saad was not in dispute with the fishing consortium made up of Yugoslav nationals. In fact, the Yugoslavian representatives in Lebanon had negotiated with the fisherman's union to make the fisherman shareholders in the company; the company offered to modernize the Fisherman's equipment and buy their catch, give their fisherman's a union and annual subsidy. Saad, as a union representative (and not the mayor of Sidon at the time as many erroneous sources claim), was offered a place on the company's board too. There has been some speculation that Saad's attempts to narrow the differences between the fishermen and the consortium, and his acceptance of a place on the board made him a target of attack by the conspirator who sought a full conflagration around the small protest. The events in Sidon were not contained for long. The government began to lose control of the situation in 1975.[citation needed]

Political groups and militiasEdit

In the run-up to the war and its early stages, militias tried to be politically-orientated non-sectarian forces, but due to the sectarian nature of Lebanese society, they inevitably gained their support from the same community as their leaders came from. In the long run almost all militias openly identified with a given community. The two main alliances were the Lebanese Front, consisting of nationalist Maronites who were against Palestinian militancy in Lebanon, and the Lebanese National Movement, which consisted of pro-Palestinian Leftists. The LNM dissolved after the Israeli invasion of 1982 and was replaced by the Lebanese National Resistance Front, known as Jammoul in Arabic.

Throughout the war most or all militias operated with little regard for human rights, and the sectarian character of some battles, made non-combatant civilians a frequent target.


As the war dragged on, the militias deteriorated ever further into mafia-style organizations with many commanders turning to crime as their main occupation rather than fighting. Finances for the war effort were obtained in one or all of three ways:

Outside support: Notably from Syria or Israel. Other Arab governments and Iran also provided considerable funds. Alliances would shift frequently.

Local population: The militias, and the political parties they served, believed they had legitimate moral authority to raise taxes to defend their communities. Road checkpoints were a particularly common way to raise these (claimed) taxes. Such taxes were in principle viewed as legitimate by much of the population who identified with their community's militia. However many militia fighters would use taxes/customs as a pretext to extort money. Furthermore many people did not recognize militia's tax-raising authority, and viewed all militia money-raising activities as mafia-style extortion and theft.

Smuggling: During the civil war, Lebanon turned into one of the world's largest narcotics producers, with much of the hashish production centered in the Bekaa valley. But much else was also smuggled, such as guns and supplies, all kinds of stolen goods, and regular trade – war or no war, Lebanon would not give up its role as the middleman in European-Arab business. Many battles were fought over Lebanon's ports, to gain smugglers access to the sea routes.


As central government authority disintegrated and rival governments claimed national authority, the various parties/militias started to create comprehensive state administrations in their territory. These were known as "cantons" (Swiss-like autonomous provinces). The best known was "Marounistan", which was the Phalangist/Lebanese Forces territory. The Progressive Socialist Party's territory was the "Civil Administration of the Mountain", commonly known as the "Jebel-el-Druze" (a name which had formerly been used for a Druze state in Syria). The Marada area around Zghorta was known as the "Northern Canton".

Overview of the different political groups and militiasEdit

Maronite groupsEdit

Logo Kataeb

Logo of the Kataeb, or Phalangist party

Maronite Christian militias acquired arms from Romania and Bulgaria as well as from West Germany, Belgium and Israel,[11] and drew supporters from the larger Maronite population in the north of the country, they were generally right-wing in their political outlook, and all the major Christian militias were Maronite-dominated, and other Christian sects played a secondary role.

Initially, the most powerful of the Maronite militias was the Kataeb Regulatory Forces, the military wing of the Kataeb Party or Phalangists, which remained under the leadership of the charismatic William Hawi until his death during the final push against Tel el Zaatar Camp. After the fall of Palestinian camps in East Beirut, the Phalange militia, now under the command of Bachir Gemayel, merged with several minor groups (Al-Tanzim, Guardians of the Cedars, Lebanese Youth Movement, Tyous Team of Commandos) and formed a professional army called the Lebanese Forces (LF). With the help of Israel, the LF established itself in Maronite-dominated strongholds and rapidly transformed from an unorganized and poorly equipped militia into a fearsome army that had now its own armor, artillery, commando units (SADM), a small Navy, and a highly advanced Intelligence branch. Meanwhile, in the north, the Marada Brigades served as the private militia of the Franjieh family and Zgharta, which became allied with Syria after breaking with the Lebanese Front in 1978.

File:Flag of the Lebanese Forces.tif

The Lebanese Forces split with the Tigers in 1980. In 1985, under the leadership of Geagea and Hobeika, they split entirely from the Phalangists and other groups to form an independent militia which was the dominant force in most Maronite areas. The Command Council then elected Hobeika to be LF President, and he appointed Geagea to be LF Chief of Staff. In January 1986, Geagea and Hobeika's relationship broke down over Hobeika's support for the pro-Syrian Tripartite Accord, and an internal civil war began. The Geagea-Hobeika Conflict resulted in 800 to 1000 casualties before Geagea secured himself as LF leader and Hobeika fled. Hobeika formed the Lebanese Forces – Executive Command which remained allied with Syria until the end of the war.

The Tigers Militia was the military wing of the National Liberal Party (NLP/ AHRAR) during the Lebanese Civil War. The Tigers formed in Saadiyat in 1968, as Noumour Al Ahrar (Tigers of the Liberals, نمور الأحرار ), under the leadership of Camille Chamoun. The group took its name from his middle name, Nemr – "Tiger". Trained by Naim Berdkan, the unit was led by Chamoun's son Dany Chamoun. After the start Civil War in 1975, the Tigers, strong of 3,500 militiamen fought the Lebanese National Movement (LNM) and its Palestinian allies.

Secular groupsEdit

Although several Lebanese militias claimed to be secular, most were little more than vehicles for sectarian interests. Still, there existed a number of non-religious groups, primarily but not exclusively of the left and/or Pan-Arab right.

Examples of this were the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) and the more radical and independent Communist Action Organization (COA). Another notable example was the pan-Syrian Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), which promoted the concept of Greater Syria, in contrast to Pan-Arab or Lebanese nationalism. The SSNP was generally aligned with the Syrian government, although it did not ideologically approve of the Ba'athist regime (however this has changed recently, under Bashar Al-Assad, the SSNP having been allowed to exert political activity in Syria as well). The multi-confessional SSNP was led by Inaam Raad, a Catholic and Abdallah Saadeh, a Greek Orthodox. It was active in North Lebanon (Koura and Akkar), West Beirut (around Hamra Street), in Mount Lebanon (High Metn, Baabda, Aley and Chouf), in South Lebanon (Zahrani, Nabatieh, Marjayoun and Hasbaya) and the Beqqa Valley (Baalbeck, Hermel and Rashaya).

Another secular group was the South Lebanon Army (SLA), led by Saad Haddad. The SLA operated in South Lebanon in co-ordination with the Israelis, and worked for the Israeli-backed parallel government, called "the Government of Free Lebanon". The SLA began as a split from the Army of Free Lebanon, a Maronite faction within the Lebanese Army. Their initial goal was to be a bulwark against PLO raids and attacks into the Galilee, although they later focussed on fighting Hezbollah. The officers tended to be Christians with a strong commitment to fighting the SLA's enemies, while most of the ordinary soldiers were Shia Muslims who frequently joined for the wages and were not always committed to the SLA fight against the PLO and Hezbollah. The SLA continued to operate after the civil war but collapsed after the Israeli army withdrew from South Lebanon in 2000. Many SLA soldiers fled to Israel, while others were captured in Lebanon and prosecuted for collaboration with Israel and treason.

Two competing Ba'ath movements were involved in the early stages of the war: a nationalist one known as "pro-Iraqi" headed by Dr. 'Abdul-Majeed Al-Rafei (Sunni) and Nicola Y. Ferzli (Greek Orthodox Christian), and a Marxist one known as "pro-Syrian" headed by Assem Qanso (Shiite).

The Kurdistan Workers' Party at the time had training camps in Lebanon, where they received support from the Syrians and the PLO. During the Israeli invasion, all PKK units were ordered to fight the Israeli forces. A total of 11 PKK fighters died in the conflict. Mahsum Korkmaz was the commander of all PKK forces in Lebanon.[12][13][14]

The Armenian Marxist-Leninist militia ASALA was founded in PLO-controlled territory of West Beirut in 1975. This militia was led by revolutionary fighter Monte Melkonian and group-founder Hagop Hagopian. Closely aligned with the Palestinians, ASALA fought many battles on the side of the Lebanese National Movement and the PLO, most prominently against Israeli forces and their right-wing allies during the 1982 phase of the war. Melkonian was field commander during these battles, and assisted the PLO in its defense of West Beirut.[15][16]



Palestinian Fatah fighters in Beirut in 1979

The Palestinian movement relocated most of its fighting strength to Lebanon at the end of 1970 after being expelled from Jordan in the events known as Black September. The umbrella organization, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)—by itself undoubtedly Lebanon's most potent fighting force at the time—was little more than a loose confederation, but its leader, Yassir Arafat, controlled all factions by buying their loyalties. Arafat allowed little oversight to be exercised over PLO finances an he was the ultimate source for all decisions made in directing financial matters. Rex Brynen provides a detailed account of how this worked. Arafat's control of funds, channeled directly to him by the oil producing countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Libya meant that he had little real functional opposition to his leadership and although ostensibly rival factions in the PLO existed, this masked a stable loyalty towards Arafat so long as he was able to dispense financial rewards to his followers and members of the PLO guerrilla factions. Unlike the Lebanese people, the Palestinians were not sectarian. Christian Palestinians supported Arab Nationalism during the civil war in Lebanon and fought against the Maronite Lebanese militias.

The PLO mainstream was represented by Arafat's powerful Fatah, which waged guerrilla warfare but did not have a strong core ideology, except the claim to seek the liberation of Palestine. As a result, they gained broad appeal with a refugee population with conservative Islamic values (who resisted secular ideologies). The more ideological factions however included Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and its splinter, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).

Fatah was instrumental in splitting the DF from the PFLP in the early days of the PFLPs formation so as to diminish the appeal and competition the PFLP posed to Fatah. Lesser roles were played by the fractious Palestinian Liberation Front (PLF) and another split-off from the PFLP, the Syrian-aligned Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC). To complicate things, the Ba'athist countries of Syria and Iraq both set up Palestinian puppet organizations within the PLO. The as-Sa'iqa was a Syrian-controlled militia, paralleled by the Arab Liberation Front (ALF) under Iraqi command. The Syrian government could also count on the Syrian brigades of the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA), formally but not functionally the PLO's regular army. Some PLA units sent by Egypt were under Arafat's command.

Druze groupsEdit

The small Druze sect, strategically and dangerously seated on the Chouf in central Lebanon, had no natural allies, and so were compelled to put much effort into building alliances. Under the leadership of the Jumblatt family, first Kamal Jumblatt (the LNM leader) and then his son Walid, the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) served as an effective Druze militia, building excellent ties to the Soviet Union mainly, and with Syria upon the withdrawal of Israel to the south of the country. However, many Druze in Lebanon at the time were members of the non-religious party, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. Under Kamal Jumblatt's leadership, the PSP was a major element in the Lebanese National Movement (LNM) which supported Lebanon's Arab identity and sympathized with the Palestinians. It built a powerful private army, which proved to be one of the strongest in the Lebanese Civil War of 1975 to 1990. It conquered much of Mount Lebanon and the Chouf District. Its main adversaries were the Maronite Christian Phalangist militia, and later the Lebanese Forces militia (which absorbed the Phalangists). The PSP suffered a major setback in 1977, when Kamal Jumblatt was assassinated. His son Walid succeeded him as leader of the party. From the Israeli withdrawal from the Chouf in 1983 to the end of the civil war, the PSP ran a highly effective civil administration, the Civil Administration of the Mountain, in the area under its control. Tolls levied at PSP militia checkpoints provided a major source of income for the administration.

The PSP played an important role in the so-called "Mountain War" under the lead of Walid Jumblatt: after the Israeli Army retreated from the Lebanese Mountain, important battles took place between the PSP and Maronite militias. PSP armed members were accused of several massacres that took place during that war.

The Progressive Socialist Party (or PSP) (Arabic: الحزب التقدمي الاشتراكي, al-hizb al-taqadummi al-ishtiraki) is a political party in Lebanon. Its current leader is Walid Jumblatt. It is in practice led and supported mostly by followers of the Druze faith.

Shi'a Muslim groupsEdit

Flag of the Amal Movement

Flag of the Amal Movement

The Shi'a militias were slow to form and join in the fighting. Initially, many Shi'a had sympathy for the Palestinians and a few had been drawn to the Lebanese Communist Party, but after 1970s Black September, there was a sudden influx of armed Palestinians to the Shi'a areas. South Lebanon's population is mainly Shi'a and the Palestinians soon set up base there for their attacks against the Israelis. The Palestinian movement quickly squandered its influence with the Shi'ite, as radical factions ruled by the gun in much of Shi'ite-inhabited southern Lebanon, where the refugee camps happened to be concentrated, and the mainstream PLO proved either unwilling or unable to rein them in.

The Palestinian radicals' secularism and behaviour had alienated the traditionalist Shi'ite community; the Shi'a did not want to pay the price for the PLO's rocket attacks from Southern Lebanon. The PLO created a state within a state in South Lebanon and this instigated a fury among Lebanon's Shi'a, who feared a retaliation from the Israelis to their native land in the South. The Shiʿa predominated in the area of southern Lebanon that in the 1960s became an arena for Israel-Palestinian conflict. The state of Lebanon, which always avoided provoking Israel, simply abandoned southern Lebanon. Many of the people there migrated to the suburbs of Beirut, which are known as "poverty belts". The young Shi'a migrants, who had not participated in the prosperity of prewar Beirut, joined many Lebanese and some Palestinian organizations. After many years without their own independent political organizations, there suddenly arose Musa Sadr's Amal Movement in 1974–75. Its Islamist ideology immediately attracted the unrepresented people, and Amal's armed ranks grew rapidly. Amal fought against the PLO in the early days. Later a hard line faction would break away to join with Shi'a groups fighting Israel to form the organization Hezbollah, also known as the National Resistance, who to this day remains the most powerful and organised force of Lebanon and the Middle East. Hezbollah was created as a faction split from Amal Movement, and an Islamist organization which deemed Amal to be too secular. Hezbollah's original aims included the establishment of an Islamic state in Lebanon.

There was great support by Iran during the Lebanese Civil War for Shi'ite factions, Amal Movement and Hezbollah. Hezbollah and its leaders were inspired by Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution and therefore in 1982 emerged as a faction set on resisting the Israeli occupation of Lebanon, and its forces were trained and organized by a contingent of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Support was greatly met by both military training and funding support.

The Lebanese Alawites, followers of a sect of Shia Islam, were represented by the Red Knights Militia of the Arab Democratic Party, which was pro-Syrian due to the Alawites being dominant in Syria, and mainly acted in Northern Lebanon around Tripoli.[17]

Sunni Muslim groupsEdit

Some Sunni factions received support from Libya and Iraq, and a number of minor militias existed, the more prominent with secular Nasserist or otherwise pan-Arab and Arab nationalist leanings, but also a few Islamist ones, such as the Tawhid Movement. The main Sunni-led organization was the al-Murabitun a major west-Beirut based force. Al-Murabitoun, led by Ibrahim Kulaylat, fought with the Palestinians against the Israelis during the invasion of 1982. The Sixth of February Movement was another pro-Palestinian Nasserist militia, and sided with the PLO in the War of the Camps

Armenian groupsEdit

The Armenian parties tended to be Christian by religion and left-wing in outlook, and were therefore uneasy committing to either side of the fighting. As a result the Armenian parties attempted, with some success, to follow a policy of militant neutrality, with their militias fighting only when required to defend the Armenian areas. However it was not uncommon for individual Armenians to choose to fight in the Lebanese Forces, and a small number chose to fight on the other side for the Lebanese National Movement/Lebanese National Resistance Front.

The Beirut suburbs of Bourj Hamoud and Naaba were controlled by the Armenian Dashnak party. In September 1979, these were attacked by the Kataeb in an attempt to bring all Christian areas under Bashir Gemayel's control. The Armenian Dashnak militia defeated the Kataeb attacks and retained control. The fighting led to 40 deaths.

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation in Lebanon refused to take sides in the conflict though its armed wing the Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide[18] and the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia did carry out assassinations and operations during the war.[19]

First phase 1975–1977Edit

Sectarian violence and massacresEdit

Throughout the spring of 1975, minor clashes in Lebanon had been building up towards all-out conflict, with the Lebanese National Movement (LNM) pitted against the Phalange, and the ever-weaker national government wavering between the need to maintain order and cater to its constituency. On the morning of 13 April 1975, unidentified gunmen in a speeding car fired on a church in the Christian East Beirut suburb of Ain El Rummaneh, killing four people including two Maronite Phalangists. Hours later, Phalangists led by the Gemayels killed 30 Palestinians traveling in Ain El Rummaneh. Citywide clashes erupted in response to this "Bus Massacre". The Battle of the Hotels began in October 1975, and lasted until March in 1976.

On 6 December 1975, a day later known as Black Saturday, the killings of four Phalange members led Phalange to quickly and temporarily set up roadblocks throughout Beirut at which identification cards were inspected for religious affiliation. Many Palestinians or Lebanese Muslims passing through the roadblocks were killed immediately. Additionally, Phalange members took hostages and attacked Muslims in East Beirut. Muslim and Palestinian militias retaliated with force, increasing the total death count to between 200 and 600 civilians and militiamen. After this point, all-out fighting began between the militias.

In a vicious spiral of sectarian violence, civilians were an easy target. On 18 January 1976 about 1,000 people were killed by Maronite forces in the Karantina Massacre, immediately followed by a retaliatory strike on Damour by Palestinian militias. These two massacres prompted a mass exodus of Muslims and Christians, as people fearing retribution fled to areas under the control of their own sect. The ethnic and religious layout of the residential areas of the capital encouraged this process, and East and West Beirut were increasingly transformed into what was in effect Christian and Muslim Beirut. Also, the number of Maronite leftists who had allied with the LNM, and Muslim conservatives with the government, dropped sharply, as the war revealed itself as an utterly sectarian conflict. Another effect of the massacres was to bring in Yassir Arafat's well-armed Fatah and thereby the Palestine Liberation Organisation on the side of the LNM, as Palestinian sentiment was by now completely hostile to the Maronite forces.

Syrian interventionEdit

Civil war Lebanon map 1976a

Map showing power balance in Lebanon, 1976: Dark green – controlled by Syria; purple – controlled by the army, or Maronite or Armenian groups; light green – controlled by Palestinian militias

In June 1976, with fighting throughout the country and the Maronites on the verge of defeat, President Suleiman Frangieh called for Syria intervention in Lebanon, on the grounds that the port of Beirut would be closed and that is how Syria received a large portion of their goods. Maronite fears had been greatly exacerbated by the Damour massacre of nearly 700 Maronite Christians,[20] and both sides felt the stakes had been raised above mere political power. Syria responded by ending its prior affiliation with the Palestinian Rejectionist Front and began supporting the Maronite-dominated government. This technically put Syria on the same side as Israel, as Israel had already begun to supply Maronite forces with arms, tanks, and military advisers in May 1976.[21] Syria had its own political and territorial interests in Lebanon, which harbored cells of the Islamists and anti-Ba'athist Muslim Brotherhood, and was also a possible route of attack for Israel.

At the President's request, Syrian troops entered Lebanon, occupying Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley, easily brushing aside the LNM and Palestinian defenses. A cease-fire was imposed,[22] but it ultimately failed to stop the conflict, so Syria added to the pressure. With Damascus supplying arms, Maronite forces managed to break through the defenses of the Tel al-Zaatar refugee camp in East Beirut, which had long been under siege. A massacre of about 2,000 Palestinians followed, which unleashed heavy criticism against Syria from the Arab world.

On 19 October 1976, the Battle of Aishiya took place, when a combined force of PLO and a Communist militia attacked Aishiya, an isolated Maronite village in a mostly Muslim area. The Artillery Corps of the Israel Defense Forces fired 24 shells (66 kilograms of TNT each) from US-made 175-millimeter field artillery units at the attackers, repelling their first attempt. However, the PLO and Communists returned at night, when low visibility made Israeli artillery far less effective. The Maronite population of the village fled. They returned in 1982.

In October 1976, Syria accepted the proposal of the Arab League summit in Riyadh. This gave Syria a mandate to keep 40,000 troops in Lebanon as the bulk of an Arab Deterrent Force charged with disentangling the combatants and restoring calm. Other Arab nations were also part of the ADF, but they lost interest relatively soon, and Syria was again left in sole control, now with the ADF as a diplomatic shield against international criticism. The Civil War was officially 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 gradual return of PLO combatants, who had been required to vacate central Lebanon under the terms of the Riyadh Accords.

In the first couple of years of the war, 60,000 people were killed.[23]

Uneasy quietEdit

Green Line, Beirut 1982

The Green Line that separated west and east Beirut, 1982

The nation was now effectively divided, with southern Lebanon and the western half of Beirut becoming bases for the PLO and Muslim-based militias, and the Christians in control of East Beirut and the Christian section of Mount Lebanon. The main confrontation line in divided Beirut was known as the Green Line.

In East Beirut, in 1976, Maronite leaders of the National Liberal Party (NLP), the Kataeb Party and the Lebanese Renewal Party joined in the Lebanese Front, a political counterpoint to the LNM. Their militias – the Tigers, Kataeb Regulatory Forces (KRF) and Guardians of the Cedars – entered a loose coalition known as the Lebanese Forces, to form a military wing for the Lebanese Front. From the very beginning, the Kataeb and its Regulatory Forces' militia, under the leadership of Bashir Gemayel, dominated the LF. In 1977–80, through absorbing or destroying smaller militias, he both consolidated control and strengthened the LF into the dominant Maronite force.

In March the same year, Lebanese National Movement leader Kamal Jumblatt was assassinated. The murder was widely blamed on the Syrian government. While Jumblatt's role as leader of the Druze Progressive Socialist Party was filled surprisingly smoothly by his son, Walid Jumblatt, the LNM disintegrated after his death. Although the anti-government pact of leftists, Shi'a, Sunni, Palestinians and Druze would stick together for some time more, their wildly divergent interests tore at opposition unity. Sensing the opportunity, Hafez al-Assad immediately began splitting up both the Maronite and Muslim coalitions in a game of divide and conquer.

Second phase 1977–1982Edit

The Hundred Days WarEdit

The Hundred Days War was a subconflict within the Lebanese Civil War, which occurred at the Lebanese Capital Beirut between February and April 1978.

It was fought between the Maronite Lebanese Forces (LF) militia, under the command of the Kataeb Party's President Bashir Gemayel, and the Syrian troops of the Arab Deterrent Force (ADF).

The conflict resulted in Syrian Army's expulsion from East Beirut, the end of Arab Deterrent Force's task in Lebanon and the breaking of alliance between Syria and the Lebanese Front.

The conflict resulted in 160 dead and 400 injured.

1978 South Lebanon conflictEdit

Lebanon, Al Yatun 7-16 (1981)

UNIFIL base, 1981

PLO attacks from Lebanon into Israel in 1977 and 1978 escalated tensions between the countries. On 11 March 1978, eleven Fatah fighters landed on a beach in northern Israel and proceeded to hijack two buses full of passengers on the Haifa – Tel-Aviv road, shooting at passing vehicles in what became known as the Coastal Road massacre. They killed 37 and wounded 76 Israelis before being killed in a firefight with Israeli forces.[24] Israel invaded Lebanon four days later in Operation Litani. The Israeli Army occupied most of the area south of the Litani River. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 425 calling for immediate Israeli withdrawal and creating the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), charged with attempting to establish peace.

Security ZoneEdit


Map showing the Blue Line demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel, established by the UN after the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 1978

Israeli forces withdrew later in 1978, but retained control of the southern region by managing a 12-mile (19 km) wide security zone along the border. These positions were held by the South Lebanon Army (SLA), a Christian-Shi'a militia under the leadership of Major Saad Haddad. The Israeli Prime Minister, Likud's Menachem Begin, compared the plight of the Christian minority in southern Lebanon (then about 5% of the population in SLA territory) to that of European Jews during World War II.[25] The PLO routinely attacked Israel during the period of the cease-fire, with over 270 documented attacks.[citation needed] People in Galilee regularly had to leave their homes during these shellings. Documents captured in PLO headquarters after the invasion showed they had come from Lebanon.[26] Arafat refused to condemn these attacks on the grounds that the cease-fire was only relevant to Lebanon.[27] On 17 July 1981, Israeli aircraft bombed multi-story apartment buildings in Beirut that contained offices of PLO associated groups. The Lebanese delegate to the United Nations Security Council claimed that 300 civilians had been killed and 800 wounded. The bombing led to worldwide condemnation, and a temporary embargo on the export of U.S. aircraft to Israel.[28] In August 1981, defense minister Ariel Sharon began to draw up plans to attack PLO military infrastructure in West Beirut, where PLO headquarters and command bunkers were located.[29]

Day of the Long KnivesEdit

The Safra massacre, known as the Day of the Long Knives, occurred in the coastal town Safra (north to Beirut) on 7 July 1980, during the Lebanese civil war, as part of Bashir Gemayel's effort to consolidate all the Maronite fighters under his leadership in the Lebanese Forces. The Phalangist forces launched a surprise attack on the Tigers, a 500-man militia that was the armed force of the National Liberal Party of ex-Lebanese President Camille Chamoun. The attack claimed the lives of 83 people.

Zahleh campaignEdit

The Zahleh campaign took place between December 1980 and June 1981. During the seven-month period, the city of Zahleh endured a handful of political and military setbacks. The opposing key players were on the one side, the LF (Lebanese Forces) aided by Zahlawi townspeople, and on the other side, the Syrian Army Forces also known as ADF Arab Deterrent Force, aided by some PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) factions.[30]

Demographically, Zahleh is one of the largest predominantly Christian towns in Lebanon.[31] Adjacent to the town's outskirts, the Bekaa valley, spanning the length of the Syrian borders. Given Zahle's close proximity to the Bekaa Valley, the Syrian Army Forces feared a potential alliance between Israel and the LF in Zahle. This potential alliance would not only threaten the Syrian military presence in the Bekaa valley, but was regarded as a national security threat from the Syrians' point of view, given the close proximity between Zahle and the Damascus highway.[30]

Consequently, as a clamp down strategy, the Syrian forces controlled major roads leading in and out of the city and fortified the entire Valley. Around December 1980, tensions increased between Zahlawi Lebanese Forces and Syrian backed Leftist militants. From April to June 1981, throughout the four-month period, a handful of LF members, aided by Zahlawi Local Resistance, confronted the Syrian military and defended the city from Syrian intrusion and potential invasion. Nearly 1,100 people were killed on both sides during the conflict. This campaign paved the way for Bachir to reach the presidency in 1982.[citation needed]

Third phase 1982–1983Edit

Israeli invasion of LebanonEdit

Civil war Lebanon map 1983a

Map showing power balance in Lebanon, 1983: Green – controlled by Syria; Purple – controlled by Army/ Maronite groups/ Armenian groups, Yellow – controlled by Israel, Blue – controlled by the United Nations

On 3 June 1982, the Abu Nidal Organization, a splinter group of Fatah, attempted to assassinate Israeli ambassador Shlomo Argov in London. Israel carried out a retaliatory aerial attack on PLO and PFLP targets in West Beirut that led to over 100 casualties.[32] The PLO responded by launching a counterattack from Lebanon with rockets and artillery, which constituted a clear violation of the ceasefire.

Meanwhile, on 5 June, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 508 calling for "all the parties to the conflict to cease immediately and simultaneously all military activities within Lebanon and across the Lebanese-Israeli border and no later than 0600 hours local time on Sunday, 6 June 1982."[33]

Israeli troops in south Lebanon (1982)

Israeli troops in South Lebanon, June 1982

Israel launched Operation Peace for Galilee on 6 June 1982, attacking PLO bases in Lebanon. Israeli forces quickly drove 25 miles (40 km) into Lebanon, moving into East Beirut with the tacit support of Maronite leaders and militia. When the Israeli cabinet convened to authorize the invasion, Sharon described it as a plan to advance 40 kilometers into Lebanon, demolish PLO strongholds, and establish an expanded security zone that would put northern Israel out of range of PLO rockets. Israeli chief of staff Rafael Eitan and Sharon had already ordered the invading forces to head straight for Beirut, in accord with Sharon's plan from September 1981. The UN Security Council passed a further resolution on 6 June 1982, United Nations Security Council Resolution 509 demanding that Israel withdraw to the internationally recognized boundaries of Lebanon.[34] On 8 June 1982, the US vetoed a proposed resolution demanding that Israel withdraw.[35]

Siege of BeirutEdit

Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium 1982 - Aerial

An aerial view of the stadium used as an ammunition supply site for the PLO after Israeli airstrikes in 1982

By 15 June 1982, Israeli units were entrenched outside Beirut. The United States called for PLO withdrawal from Lebanon, and Sharon began to order bombing raids of West Beirut, targeting some 16,000 PLO fedayeen who had retreated into fortified positions. Meanwhile, Arafat attempted through negotiations to salvage politically what was clearly a disaster for the PLO, an attempt which eventually succeeded once the multinational force arrived to evacuate the PLO.

Negotiations for a cease-fireEdit

On 26 June, a UN Security Council resolution was proposed that "demands the immediate withdrawal of the Israeli forces engaged round Beirut, to a distance of 10 kilometers from the periphery of that city, as a first step towards the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon, and the simultaneous withdrawal of the Palestinian armed forces from Beirut, which shall retire to the existing camps";[36] the United States vetoed the resolution because it was "a transparent attempt to preserve the PLO as a viable political force",[37] However, President Reagan made an impassioned plea to Prime Minister Begin to end the siege. Begin called back within minutes informing the President that he had given the order to end the attack.[38]

Finally, amid escalating violence and civilian casualties, Philip Habib was once again sent to restore order, which he accomplished on 12 August on the heels of IDF's intensive, day-long bombardment of West Beirut. The Habib-negotiated truce called for the withdrawal of both Israeli and PLO elements, as well as a multinational force composed of U.S. Marines along with French and Italian units that would ensure the departure of the PLO and protect defenseless civilians.

International interventionEdit

Navy Amphibian, Beirut 1982

US Navy Amphibian arriving in Beirut, 1982

The first troops of a multinational force landed in Beirut on 21 August 1982 to oversee the PLO withdrawal from Lebanon and U.S. mediation resulted in the evacuation of Syrian troops and PLO fighters from Beirut. The agreement also provided for the deployment of a multinational force composed of U.S. Marines along with French, Italian and British units. However, Israel reported that some 2,000 PLO militants were hiding in Palestinian refugee camps on the outskirts of Beirut.

Bachir Gemayel was elected president on 23 August. He was assassinated on 14 September by the Maronite Christian Habib Tanious Shartouni.

Sabra and Shatila MassacreEdit

The Kahan Commission was set up by the Israeli government to investigate the circumstances of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, in which up to 3500 Muslim civilians were killed by the Lebanese Maronite forces.[39] "for ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge" and "not taking appropriate measures to prevent bloodshed." The Commission recommended that Sharon resign his post as Defense Minister, which he did, though he remained in the government as a minister without Portfolio.[40]

17 May AgreementEdit

On 17 May 1983, Lebanon's Amine Gemayel, Israel, and the United States signed an agreement[41] text on Israeli withdrawal that was conditioned on the departure of Syrian troops; reportedly after the US and Israel exerted severe pressure on Gemayel. The agreement stated that "the state of war between Israel and Lebanon has been terminated and no longer exists." Thus, the agreement in effect amounted to a peace agreement with Israel, and was additionally seen by many Lebanese Muslims as an attempt for Israel to gain a permanent hold on the Lebanese South.[42] The 17 May Agreement was widely portrayed in the Arab world as an imposed surrender, and Amine Gemayel was accused of acting as a Quisling President; tensions in Lebanon hardened considerably. Syria strongly opposed the agreement and declined to discuss the withdrawal of its troops, effectively stalemating further progress.

In August 1983, Israel withdrew from the Chouf District (southeast of Beirut), thus removing the buffer between the Druze and the Maronite militias and triggering another round of brutal fighting, the Mountain War (Lebanon). Israel didn't intervene. By September, the Druze had gained control over most of the Chouf, and Israeli forces had pulled out from all but the southern security zone.

Resurging violenceEdit


Picture of the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing

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 Gemayel. On 5 March the Lebanese Government canceled the 17 May Agreement, and the Marines departed a few weeks later.

This period of chaos witnessed the beginning of attacks against U.S. and Western interests, such as the 18 April 1983 suicide attack at the U.S. Embassy in West Beirut, which killed 63.

In September, following the Israeli withdrawal and the ensuing battles between the Lebanese Army and opposing factions for control of key terrain during the Mountain War (Lebanon), the Reagan White House approved the use of naval gunfire to subdue Druze and Syrian positions in order to give support to and protect the Lebanese Army, which was under severe duress.[43]

On 23 October 1983, a devastating Iranian sponsored suicide bombing in Beirut targeted the headquarters of the U.S. and French forces, killing 241 American and 58 French servicemen.[44] On 18 January 1984, American University of Beirut President Malcolm Kerr was murdered. After US forces withdrew in February 1984, anti-US attacks continued, including a second bombing of the U.S. embassy annex in East Beirut on 20 September 1984, which killed 9, including 2 U.S. servicemen. The situation became serious enough to compel the U.S. State Department to invalidate US passports for travel to Lebanon in 1987, a travel ban that was only lifted 10 years later in 1997.

In 1982, the Islamic Republic of Iran established a base in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. From that base, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) "founded, financed, trained and equipped Hezbollah to operate as a proxy army" for Iran.[44] The IRGC organized Hezbollah by drafting members from Shi'a groups resisting the Israeli occupation and from the main Shi'a movement, Nabih Berri's Amal Movement. The group found inspiration for its revolutionary Islamism in the Iranian Revolution of 1979. With Iranian sponsorship and a large pool of disaffected Shi'a refugees from which to draw support, Hezbollah quickly grew into a strong, armed force.

Fourth phase 1984–1990Edit

War of the CampsEdit

USS New Jersey firing in Beirut, 1984

USS New Jersey fires a salvo against enemy positions in the Shouf, 9 January 1984

Between 1985 and 1989, sectarian conflict worsened as various efforts at national reconciliation failed. Heavy fighting took place in the War of the Camps of 1985–86 as a Syrian-backed coalition headed by the Amal militia sought to rout the PLO from their Lebanese strongholds. Many Palestinians died, and the Sabra, Shatila, and Bourj el-Barajneh refugee camps were largely destroyed.[45]

Major combat returned to Beirut in 1987, when Palestinians, leftists, and Druze fighters allied against Amal, eventually drawing further Syrian intervention. Violent confrontation flared up again in Beirut in 1988 between Amal and Hezbollah. Hezbollah swiftly seized command of several Amal-held parts of the city, and for the first time emerged as a strong force in the capital.

Aoun governmentEdit

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Rashid Karami, head of a government of national unity set up after the failed peace efforts of 1984, was assassinated on 1 June 1987. The assassination was accused upon Samir Geagea in coordination with the Lebanese army, but would not be proven. President Gemayel's term of office expired in September 1988. Before stepping down, he appointed another Maronite Christian, Lebanese Armed Forces Commanding General Michel Aoun, as acting Prime Minister, contravening the National Pact. Conflict in this period was also exacerbated by increasing Iraqi involvement, as Saddam Hussein searched for proxy battlefields for the Iran–Iraq War. To counter Iran's influence through Amal and Hezbollah, Iraq backed Maronite groups; Saddam Hussein helped Aoun and the Lebanese Forces led by Samir Geagea between 1988–1990.[46]

Muslim groups rejected the violation of the National Pact and pledged support to Selim al-Hoss, a Sunni who had succeeded Karami. Lebanon was thus divided between a Maronite military government in East Beirut and a civilian government in West Beirut.

On 14 March 1989, Aoun launched what he termed a "war of liberation" against the Syrians and their Lebanese militia allies. As a result, Syrian pressure on his Lebanese Army and militia pockets in East Beirut grew. Still, Aoun persisted in the "war of liberation", denouncing the regime of Hafez al-Assad and claiming that he fought for Lebanon's independence. While he seems to have had significant Maronite support for this, he was still perceived as a sectarian leader among others by the Muslim population, who distrusted his agenda. He was also plagued by the challenge to his legitimacy put forth by the Syrian-backed West Beirut government of Selim al-Hoss. Militarily, this war did not achieve its goal. Instead, it caused considerable damages to East Beirut and provoked massive emigration among the Christian population.

Taif AgreementEdit

Lebanon sectors map

An estimate of the distribution of Lebanon's main religious groups, 1991, based on a map by

The Taif Agreement of 1989 marked the beginning of the end of the fighting. In January of that year, a committee appointed by the Arab League, chaired by Kuwait and including Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Morocco, began to formulate solutions to the conflict. This led to a meeting of Lebanese parliamentarians in Ta'if, Saudi Arabia, where they agreed to the national reconciliation accord in October. The agreement provided a large role for Syria in Lebanese affairs. Returning to Lebanon, they ratified the agreement on 4 November and elected Rene Mouawad as President the following day. Military leader Michel Aoun in East Beirut refused to accept Mouawad, and denounced the Taif Agreement.

Mouawad was assassinated 17 days later in a car bombing in Beirut on 22 November as his motorcade returned from Lebanese independence day ceremonies. He was succeeded by Elias Hrawi (who remained in office until 1998). Aoun again refused to accept the election, and dissolved Parliament.

Infighting in East BeirutEdit

On 16 January 1990, General Aoun ordered all Lebanese media to cease using terms like "President" or "Minister" to describe Hrawi and other participants in the Taif government. The Lebanese Forces, which had grown into a rival power broker in the Christian parts of the capital, protested by suspending all its broadcasts. Tension with the LF grew, as Aoun feared that the militia was planning to link up with the Hrawi administration.

On 31 January 1990, Lebanese Army forces clashed with the LF, after Aoun had stated that it was in the national interest for the government to "unify the weapons" (i.e. that the LF must submit to his authority as acting head of state). This brought fierce fighting to East Beirut, and although the LF made initial advances, the intra-Maronite warfare eventually sapped the militia of most of its fighting strength.

In August 1990, the Lebanese Parliament, which didn't heed Aoun's order to dissolve, and the new president agreed on constitutional amendments embodying some of the political reforms envisioned at Taif. The National Assembly expanded to 128 seats and was for the first time divided equally between Christians and Muslims.

As Saddam Hussein focused his attention on Kuwait, Iraqi supplies to Aoun dwindled.

On 13 October, Syria launched a major operation involving its army, air force (for the first time since Zahle's siege in 1981) and Lebanese allies (mainly the Lebanese Army led by General Émile Lahoud) against Aoun's stronghold around the presidential palace, where hundreds of Aoun supporters were killed. It then cleared out the last Aounist pockets, cementing its hold on the capital. Aoun fled to the French Embassy in Beirut, and later into exile in Paris. He was not able to return until May 2005.

William Harris claims that the Syrian operation could not take place until Syria had reached an agreement with the United States, that in exchange for support against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War, it would convince Israel not to attack Syrian aircraft approaching Beirut. Aoun claimed in 1990 that the United States "has sold Lebanon to Syria".[47]

End of the WarEdit

In March 1991, parliament passed an amnesty law that pardoned all political crimes prior to its enactment. The amnesty was not extended to crimes perpetrated against foreign diplomats or certain crimes referred by the cabinet to the Higher Judicial Council. In May 1991, the militias (with the important exception of Hezbollah) were dissolved, and the Lebanese Armed Forces began to slowly rebuild themselves as Lebanon's only major non-sectarian institution.

Some violence still occurred. In late December 1991 a car bomb (estimated to carry 220 pounds of TNT) exploded in the Muslim neighborhood of Basta. At least thirty people were killed, and 120 wounded, including former Prime Minister Shafik Wazzan, who was riding in a bulletproof car.

The Post-war occupation of the country by Syria was particularly politically disadvantageous to the Maronite population as most of their leadership was driven into exile, or had been assassinated or jailed.[48]

In 2005, the assassination of Rafik Hariri sparked the Cedar Revolution leading to Syrian military withdrawal from the country. Contemporary political alliances in Lebanon reflect the alliances of the Civil War as well as contemporary geopolitics. The March 14 Alliance brings together Maronite-dominated parties (Lebanese Forces, Kataeb, National Liberal Party, National Bloc, Independence Movement) and Sunni-dominated parties (Future Movement, Islamic Group) whereas the March 8 Alliance is led by the Shia-dominated Hezbollah and Amal parties, as well as assorted Maronite- and Sunni-dominated parties, the SSNP, Ba'athist and Nasserist parties. The Syrian civil war is also having a significant impact on contemporary political life.

The AftermathEdit

Beirut- building from before civil war

War-damaged buildings still standing in Beirut, 2006

Since the end of the war, the Lebanese have conducted several elections, most of the militias have been weakened or disbanded, and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have extended central government authority over about two-thirds of the country. Following the cease-fire which ended the 12 July 2006 Israeli-Lebanese conflict, the army has for the first time in over three decades moved to occupy and control the southern areas of Lebanon.

Lebanon still bears deep scars from the civil war. In all, it is estimated that around 150,000 people were killed,[49] and another 100,000 permanently handicapped by injuries. Approximately 900,000 people, representing one-fifth of the pre-war population, were displaced from their homes. Perhaps a quarter of a million emigrated permanently.

Le Centre-Ville et les Marina tours

After year 1990, Lebanon has undergone a thourough re-constructive process, in which the Down Town of Beirut was fully restructured according to the international standards to meet the demands of the Modern World.

Thousands of land mines remain buried in the previously contested areas. Some Western hostages kidnapped during the mid-1980s were held until June 1992.[50] Lebanese victims of kidnapping and wartime "disappeared" number in the tens of thousands[citation needed].

Car bombs became a favored weapon of violent groups worldwide, following their frequent, and often effective, use during the war.

In the 15 years of strife, there were at least 3,641 car bombs, which left 4,386 people dead and thousands more injured.[51] Other favorite weapons were the AK-47 and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).

Depictions in the arts & musicEdit

  • The Argentinean rock/new wave band GIT writed and recorded a song, in 1986, called "Buenas noches, Beirut" (Good night, Beirut), about the Lebanese Civil War, include on their third eponymous studio album.
  • Out of Life by Maroun Baghdadi, from 1991, was awarded the Jury Prize at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.[52]
  • In 2009, Saleh Barakat curated "The Road to Peace" exhibition at Beirut Art Center.[53] The exhibition featured paintings, photographs, drawings, prints and sculptures by Lebanese artists during the war. Its title comes from a series of prints by Aref Rayess that depict Lebanese survivors of war.[54]
  • Waltz with Bashir, a movie from 2008 that deals with the 1982 Israeli intervention and the Sabra and Shatila massacre.
  • The 2010 Canadian film Incendies depicts the civil war and its aftermath. It is partly based on incidents in the life of the Lebanese writer Souha Bechara.

See alsoEdit


  1. World Political Almanac, 3rd Ed, Chris Cook.
  3. Commission of Enquiry on Lebanon, 23 November 2006, p.18.
  4. CIA World Factbook. "CIA World Factbook: Lebanon: Refugees and internally displaced persons". CIA World Factbook, 10 September 2012.
  5. "Things Fall Apart: Containing the Spillover from an Iraqi Civil War" By Daniel Byman, Kenneth Michael Pollack, Page. 139
  6. Who are the Maronites?
  7. "Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East", p.62
  8. Ex-militia fighters in post-war Lebanon
  9. Lebanon's History: Civil War - Ayman Ghazi
  10. [1]
  11. Bregman and El-Tahri (1998), 158pp. (This reference only mentions Israel.)
  12. "In the Spotlight: PKK (A.k.a KADEK) Kurdish Worker's Party". Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  13. "Abdullah Öcalan en de ontwikkeling van de PKK". Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  15. "Lebanon – Armenian Parties". Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  16. Melkonian, Markar (2005). My Brother's Road: An American's Fateful Journey to Armenia. New York: I. B. Tauris. p. x. ISBN 1-85043-635-5.
  18. Francis P. Hyland, Armenian Terrorism: the Past, the Present, the Prospects, Boulder-San Francisco-Oxford: Westview Press, 1991, pp. 61–62; Yves Ternon, La Cause arménienne, Paris: Le Seuil, 1983, p. 218; The Armenian Reporter, 19 January 1984, p. 1.
  19. Verluise, Pierre (April 1995). "Armenia in Crisis: The 1988 Earthquake". Wayne State University Press. p. 143. ISBN 0-8143-2527-0. 
  20. Nisan, M. (2003). The Conscience of Lebanon: A Political Biography of Etienne Sakr (Abu-Arz). London: Routledge. ISBN 0-7146-5392-6.
  21. Charles D. Smith, Palestine and the Arab Israeli Conflict, p. 354.
  22. Fisk, pp. 78–81
  23. The World Handbook of Political and Social Indicators, Charles Lewis Taylo
  24. "133 Statement to the press by Prime Minister Begin on the massacre of Israelis on the Haifa – Tel Aviv Road- 12 March 1978", Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1977–79
  25. Smith, op. cit., 355.
  26. Jillian Becker, The PLO, (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1984), pp. 202, 279.
  27. Smith, op. cit., p. 376.
  28. "The Bombing of Beirut". 1981. pp. 218–225. Digital object identifier:10.1525/jps.1981.11.1.00p0366x. 
  29. Smith, op. cit., p. 377.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Menargues, Alain (2004). Les secrets de la guerre au Liban : du coup d'Etat de Bachir Gémayel aux Massacres des Camps Palestiniens. Albin Michel. pp. 106–107. 
  31. Mclaurin, R.D (1986). The battle of Zahle (Technical memorandum 8–86). MD: U.S Army Human Engineering Laboratory. 
  32. Smith, op. cit., p. 378.
  33. "United Nations Security Council Resolution 508", Jewish Virtual Library
  34. "United Nations Security Council Resolution 509", Global Policy Forum
  35. "United Nations Security Council Draft Resolution of 8 June 1982 (Spain), United Nations
  36. "United Nations Security Council Revised Draft Resolution of 25 June 1982 (France), United Nations
  37. New York Times, 27 June 1982, cited in Chomsky, op. cit., p. 198
  38. "Ronald Reagan on War & Peace". Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  39. Schiff, Ze'ev; Ehud Ya'ari (1984). Israel's Lebanon War. Simon and Schuster. p. 284. ISBN 0-671-47991-1. 
  40. Chomsky, op. cit., 406.
  41. "17 May Agreement", Lebanese Armed Forces
  42. "Israel and South Lebanon", Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, 5 March 1984, Page 3
  43. Geraghty, Timothy J.; Alfred M. Gray Jr. (Foreword) (2009). Peacekeepers at War: Beirut 1983—The Marine Commander Tells His Story. Potomac Books. ISBN 978-1-59797-425-7. pp. 64–72.
  44. 44.0 44.1 Geraghty, Timothy J.; Alfred M. Gray Jr. (Foreword) (2009). Peacekeepers at War: Beirut 1983—The Marine Commander Tells His Story. Potomac Books. ISBN 978-1-59797-425-7. pp. 165–166.
  45. (Fisk, 609)
  46. "Doctrine, Dreams Drive Saddam Hussein", Washington Post, 12 August 1990
  47. (Harris, p. 260)
  48. Baroudi and Tabar 2009
  49. The New York Times (2012). "After 2 Decades, Scars of Lebanon's Civil War Block Path to Dialogue".
  50. "Lebanon (Civil War 1975–1991)",
  51. "Lebanon: The Terrible Tally of Death". Time. 23 March 1992.,9171,975156,00.html?. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  52. "Festival de Cannes: Out of Life". Retrieved 9 August 2009. 
  53. "The Road to Peace: Paintings in Times of War, 1975–1991". Beirut Art Center. 2009. Retrieved 20 January 2012. 
  54. Patrick Healy (6 July 2009). "Face of War Pervades New Beirut Art Center". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 January 2012. 

Further readingEdit

  • Jean-Marc Aractingi,La Politique à mes trousses( Politics at my heels), Editions l'Harmattan, Paris, 2006, Lebanon Chapter (ISBN 978-2-296-00469-6).
  • Al-Baath wa-Lubnân [Arabic only] ("The Baath and Lebanon"), NY Firzli, Beirut, Dar-al-Tali'a Books, 1973.
  • The Iraq-Iran Conflict, NY Firzli, Paris, EMA, 1981. ISBN 2-86584-002-6
  • Bregman, Ahron (2002). Israel's Wars: A History Since 1947. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-28716-2
  • Bregman, Ahron and El-Tahri, Jihan (1998). The Fifty Years War: Israel and the Arabs. London: BBC Books. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-026827-8
  • The Breakdown of the State in Lebanon, 1967–1976 Khazen Farid El (2000) (ISBN 0-674-08105-6)
  • The Bullet Collection, a book by Patricia Sarrafian Ward, is an excellent account of human experience during the Lebanese Civil War.
  • Civil War in Lebanon, 1975–92 O'Ballance Edgar (1998) (ISBN 0-312-21593-2)
  • Crossroads to Civil War: Lebanon 1958–1976 Salibi Kamal S. (1976) (ISBN 0-88206-010-4)
  • Death of a country: The civil war in Lebanon. Bulloch John (1977) (ISBN 0-297-77288-0)
  • Faces of Lebanon: Sects, Wars, and Global Extensions (Princeton Series on the Middle East) Harris William W (1997) (ISBN 1-55876-115-2)
  • The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians Noam Chomsky (1983, 1999) (ISBN 0-89608-601-1)
  • History of Syria Including Lebanon and Palestine, Vol. 2 Hitti Philip K. (2002) (ISBN 1-931956-61-8)
  • Lebanon: A Shattered Country: Myths and Realities of the Wars in Lebanon, Revised Edition Picard, Elizabeth (2002) (ISBN 0-8419-1415-X)
  • Lebanon in Crisis: Participants and Issues (Contemporary Issues in the Middle East) Haley P. Edward, Snider Lewis W. (1979) (ISBN 0-8156-2210-4)
  • Lebanon: Fire and Embers: A History of the Lebanese Civil War by Hiro, Dilip (1993) (ISBN 0-312-09724-7)
  • Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War Fisk, Robert (2001) (ISBN 0-19-280130-9)
  • Syria and the Lebanese Crisis Dawisha A. I. (1980) (ISBN 0-312-78203-9)
  • Syria's Terrorist War on Lebanon and the Peace Process Deeb Marius (2003) (ISBN 1-4039-6248-0)
  • The War for Lebanon, 1970–1985 Rabinovich Itamar (1985) (ISBN 0-8014-9313-7)
  • The Lebanese War 1975–1985, a bibliographical survey, Abdallah Naaman, Maison Naaman pour la culture, Jounieh, Lebanon, 1985
  • Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, fourth edition, Charles D. Smith (2001) (ISBN 0-312-20828-6) (paperback)
  • Les otages libanais dans les prisons syriennes, jusqu'à quand? by Lina Murr Nehme

External linksEdit

Primary sources

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.