The Pronk Pops Show 577, November 18, 2015, Story 1: Islamic Jihad First Suicide Bombers Killed 63 People Including 17 Americans of Embassy and CIA Staff and Marines, 220 United States Marines, 18 Sailors and 3 Soldiers and 58 French Paratroopers — Videos

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The Pronk Pops Show Podcasts

Pronk Pops Show 577: November 18, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 576: November 17, 2015

Pronk Pops Show 575: November 16, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 574: November 13, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 573: November 12, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 572: November 11, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 571: November 9, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 570: November 6, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 569: November 5, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 568: November 4, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 567: November 3, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 566: November 2, 2015

Pronk Pops Show 565: October 30, 2015

Pronk Pops Show 564: October 29, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 563: October 28, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 562: October 27, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 561: October 26, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 560: October 23, 2015

Pronk Pops Show 559: October 22, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 558: October 21, 2015

Pronk Pops Show 557: October 20, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 556: October 19, 2015

Pronk Pops Show 555: October 16, 2015

Pronk Pops Show 554: October 15, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 553: October 14, 2015

Pronk Pops Show 552: October 13, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 551: October 12, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 550: October 9, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 549: October 8, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 548: October 7, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 547: October 5, 2015

Pronk Pops Show 546: October 2, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 545: October 1, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 544: September 30, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 543: September 29, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 542: September 28, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 541: September 25, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 540: September 24, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 539: September 23, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 538: September 22, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 537: September 21, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 536: September 18, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 535: September 17, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 534: September 16, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 533: September 15, 2015  

Pronk Pops Show 532: September 14, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 531: September 11, 2015

Pronk Pops Show 530: September 10, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 529: September 9, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 528: September 8, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 527: September 4, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 526: September 3, 2015  

Pronk Pops Show 525: September 2, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 524: August 31, 2015  

Pronk Pops Show 523: August 27, 2015  

Pronk Pops Show 522: August 26, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 521: August 25, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 520: August 24, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 519: August 21, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 518: August 20, 2015  

Pronk Pops Show 517: August 19, 2015 

Pronk Pops Show 516: August 18, 2015

Pronk Pops Show 515: August 17, 2015

Pronk Pops Show 514: August 14, 2015

Pronk Pops Show 513: August 13, 2015

Pronk Pops Show 512: August 12, 2015

Pronk Pops Show 511: August 11, 2015

Pronk Pops Show 510: August 10, 2015

Story 1: Islamic Jihad First Suicide Bombers Killed 63 People Including 17 Americans of Embassy and CIA Staff and Marines,  220 United States Marines, 18 Sailors and  3 Soldiers and 58 French Paratroopers — Videos

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

John Stuart Mill
English economist & philosopher (1806 – 1873)






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Beirut_Memorial_1            MarinesBeriutImage2beirutmemorialplaque

Is Beirut still haunted by ghosts of the civil war?

USMC Beirut 1982

Beirut, Lebanon on April 18,1983, killed 60 people,embassy staff members and United States Marines

1983 Beirut Embassy And Marine Barrack Bombings During Israeli Invasion Of Lebanon

1983 American Embassy in Beirut Bombing

Beirut Remembered – The Marine Barracks Terrorist Attack, 1983

On October 23, 1983 the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon were attacked by terrorists with a massive bomb. It was the single most deadly day for Marines since World War II. This short documentary film tells the story of that day through interviews with Marines who survived the attack and were deeply affected.

Marines of Beirut, Oct. 23rd, 1983!

President Ronald Reagan speaks on Beirut barracks bombing

Ronald Reagan-Remarks on U.S. Casualties in Lebanon and Grenada (November 4, 1983)

Classic Ron Paul – “These intelligence agents serve no diplomatic function whatsoever” (1983)

NewsHour flashback: Jim Webb’s Emmy-winning report on Lebanese Civil War

NewsHour flashback: Jim Webb on the 1983 Beirut Barracks Bombings

My Neighbour, My Enemy (ENGLISH)

Beirut – War Generation بيروت – جيل الحرب 1989

Civil War- Lebanon – Thames Television

Marines mark 30 anniversary of the Beirut barracks bombing

Give Peace A Chance (1969) – Official Video

1983 United States embassy bombing

The April 18, 1983 United States embassy bombing was a suicide bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, that killed 63 people, mostly embassy and CIA staff members, several soldiers and one Marine. 17 of the dead were Americans. It was the deadliest attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission up to that time, and is thought of as marking the beginning of anti-U.S. attacks by Islamist groups.

The attack came in the wake of the intervention of a Multinational Force, made up of Western countries, including the U.S., in the Lebanese Civil War, to try to restore order and central government authority.


A view of the damage to the U.S. Embassy after the bombing.

The car bomb was detonated by a suicide bomberdriving a delivery van packed with about 2,000 pounds (910 kg) of explosives at approximately 1:00 pm (GMT+2) April 18, 1983. The van, originally sold in Texas, bought used and shipped to the Gulf,[1] gained access to the embassy compound and parked under the portico at the very front of the building, where it exploded. Former CIA operative Robert Baer‘s account says that the van broke through an outbuilding, crashed through the lobby door and exploded there.[2] The blast collapsed the entire central facade of the horseshoe-shaped building, leaving the wreckage of balconies and offices in heaped tiers of rubble, and spewing masonry, metal and glass fragments in a wide swath. The explosion was heard throughout West Beirut and broke windows as far as a mile away. Rescue workers worked around the clock, unearthing the dead and wounded.

Robert S. Dillon, then Ambassador to Lebanon, recounted the attack in his oral history:

“All of a sudden, the window blew in. I was very lucky, because I had my arm and the T-shirt in front of my face, which protected me from the flying glass. I ended up flat on my back. I never heard the explosion. Others said that it was the loudest explosion they ever heard. It was heard from a long distance away.
As I lay on the floor on my back, the brick wall behind my desk blew out. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. The wall fell on my legs; I could not feel them. I thought they were gone. The office filled with smoke, dust, and tear gas. What happened was that the blast first blew in the window and then traveled up an air shaft from the first floor to behind my desk. We had had tear gas canisters on the first floor. The blast set them off so that the air rush that came up through the shaft brought the tear gas with it and also collapsed the wall.
…We didn’t know what had happened. The central stairway was gone, but the building had another stairway, which we used to make our way down, picking our way through the rubble. We were astounded to see the damage below us. I didn’t realize that the entire bay of the building below my office had been destroyed. I hadn’t grasped that yet. I remember speculating that some people had undoubtedly been hurt. As we descended, we saw people hurt. Everybody had this funny white look because they were all covered with dust. They were staggering around.
We got to the second floor, still not fully cognizant of how bad it was, although I recognized that major damage had been done. With each second, the magnitude of the explosion became clearer. I saw Marylee MacIntyre standing; she couldn’t see because her face had been cut and her eyes were full of blood. I picked her up and took her over to a window and gave her to someone. A minute later, someone came up to me and said that Bill MacIntyre was dead; he had just seen the body. That was the first time I realized that people had been killed. I didn’t know how many, but I began to understand how bad the blast had been.”[3]

Death toll

President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan pay their respects and tribute to the 13 American civilian and 4 U.S. military personnel victims of the embassy bombing.

A total of 63 people were killed in the bombing: 32 Lebanese employees, 17 Americans, and 14 visitors and passersby.[4] Of the Americans killed, eight worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, including the CIA’s top Middle East analyst and Near East director, Robert Ames, Station Chief Kenneth Haas and most of the Beirut staff of the CIA. Others killed included William R. McIntyre, deputy director of the United States Agency for International Development, two of his aides, and four U.S. military personnel. Lebanese victims included clerical workers at the embassy, visa applicants waiting in line and nearby motorists and pedestrians.[5] An additional 120 or so people were wounded in the bombing.


World response

U.S. President Ronald Reagan on April 18 denounced the “vicious terrorist bombing” as a “cowardly act,” saying, “This criminal act on a diplomatic establishment will not deter us from our goals of peace in the region.”[6] Two envoys, Philip C. Habib and Morris Draper, continued their peace mission in Beirut to discuss Lebanese troop withdrawals with a renewed sense of urgency.

The next day, Ambassador Robert Dillon, who had narrowly escaped injury in the bombing, said: “Paramount among the essential business is our work for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon.” It is only by securing Lebanese government control over the country “that terrible tragedies like the one we experienced yesterday can be avoided in the future.”[5]

The President of Lebanon, Amine Gemayel, cabled President Reagan on April 18, saying, “The Lebanese people and myself express our deepest condolences to the families of the U.S. victims. The cross of peace is the burden of the courageous.”[5] Meanwhile, Lebanon asked the U.S., France, and Italy to double the size of the peacekeeping force. As of March 16, it numbered about 4,800 troops, including some 1,200 U.S. Marines, 1,400 Italian soldiers, 2,100 French paratroopers and 100 British soldiers.

Iran denied any role in the attack. Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Velayati said, “We deny any involvement and we think this allegation is another propaganda plot against us.”[7]

On April 19, Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel sent President Reagan a message of condolence for the embassy bombing. “I write in the name of Israel when I express to you my deep shock at the terrible outrage which took the lives of so many of the American embassy in Beirut yesterday.”[5] Defense MinisterMoshe Arens, was quoted by Israeli radio that he told the cabinet the attack “justified Israel’s demands for security arrangements in Lebanon.” Minister Yitzhak Shamir of Israel called the embassy bombing “shocking” but added that, “In Lebanon nothing is surprising. I think the lesson is simple and understood. The security problems in Lebanon are still most serious, and terrorist organizations will continue to operate there, at times with great success.”[5]

U.S. Congressional response

The House Foreign Affairs Committee April 19 voted to approve $251 million in additional economic and military aid for Lebanon, as requested by the administration. But it attached an amendment to the bill that would force the White House to seek approval for any expanded U.S. military role.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee followed suit April 20, approving the aid request but attaching an amendment that required the president to obtain congressional authorization for “any substantial expansion in the number or role of U.S. armed forces in Lebanon or for the creation of a new, expanded or extended multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon.” If Congress did not act jointly on such a request within 60 days, however, the increase would then take effect automatically.

The Senate amendment was sponsored as a compromise by committee Chairman Charles H. Percy (R, Ill.). It prevented a move by the committee’s ranking Democrat, Claiborne Pell (R.I.), to extend the 1973 War Powers Resolution to Lebanon. On April 20, Pell said he would have had the votes to apply the resolution to U.S. Marines in Lebanon. The law limited presidential commitment of troops in hostile situations to a maximum of 90 days unless Congress specifically approved their use.

Undersecretary of State Kenneth W. Dam, in a letter to the committee, had argued forcefully against use of the War Powers Resolution. Dam said it would “amount to a public finding that U.S. forces will be exposed to imminent risk of involvement in hostilities”, which “could give entirely the wrong public impression” of U.S. expectations for Lebanon’s future. Several influential congressmen had been urging an end to the U.S. military role in Lebanon. After the embassy bombing, April 19, Sen. Barry Goldwater (R, Ariz.) said, “I think it’s high time we bring the boys home.”



A pro-Iranian group calling itself the Islamic Jihad Organization took responsibility for the bombing in a telephone call to a news office immediately after the blast. The anonymous caller said, “This is part of theIranian revolution’s campaign against imperialist targets throughout the world. We shall keep striking at anycrusader presence in Lebanon, including the international forces.”[8] (The group had earlier taken responsibility for a grenade attack in which five U.S. members of the international peacekeeping force had been wounded.)

Judge John Bates of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. September 8, 2003, awarded $123 million to 29 American victims and family members of Americans killed in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut. Judge Royce Lamberth of U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. May 30, 2003, had determined that the bombing was carried out by the militant group Hezbollah with the approval and financing of senior Iranian officials, paving the way for the victims to seek damages. The trial had opened March 17.

Other effects

Following the attack, the embassy was moved to a supposedly more secure location in East Beirut. However, on September 20, 1984, another car bomb exploded at this embassy annex, killing twenty Lebanese and two American soldiers.

The April bombing was one of the first suicide attacks in the region. Other suicide car bombings over the next eight months included one against the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait, a second attack on Israeli Army’s headquarters in Tyre, and the extremely destructive attacks on the U.S. Marine and French Paratrooper barracks in Beirut on October 23, 1983.

Along with the Marine Barracks bombing, the 1983 U.S. Embassy bombing prompted the Inman Report, a review of overseas security for the U.S. Department of State. This in turn prompted the creation of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Diplomatic Security Service within the U.S. State Department.

See also


1983 Beirut barracks bombing

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
1983 Beirut barracks bombings
Part of the Lebanese Civil War

A smoke cloud rises from the rubble of the bombed barracks at Beirut International Airport (BIA).
Date October 23, 1983
Attack type
Suicidetruck bombs, Mass murder
Deaths 241 American Military Servicemen
58 French Paratroopers[1]
6 civilians
2 suicide bombers
Total: 307
Non-fatal injuries
Perpetrators Islamic Jihad Organization

The Beirut Barracks Bombings (October 23, 1983, in Beirut, Lebanon) occurred during the Lebanese Civil War when two truck bombs struck separate buildings housing United States and French military forces—members of theMultinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon—killing 299 American and French servicemen. An obscure group calling itself ‘Islamic Jihad‘ claimed responsibility for the bombings.[2]

The chain of command likely ran from Tehran, to Iran’s Ambassador to Syria, Ali Akbar Mohtashamipur in Damascus, to IRGC commander Hossein Dehghan, in Beirut, as the Iranians drew on assets in Lebanon.[3] Hezbollah, Iran and Syria have continued to deny any involvement in any of the bombings even though, in 2004, the Iranian government erected a monument in Tehran to commemorate the 1983 bombings and its “martyrs”.[4]

Suicide bombers detonated each of the truck bombs. In the attack on the building serving as a barracks for the 1st Battalion 8th Marines (Battalion Landing Team – BLT 1/8), the death toll was 241 American servicemen: 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers, making this incident the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since World War II‘s Battle of Iwo Jima, the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States military since the first day of the Vietnam War‘s Tet Offensive, and the deadliest single attack on Americans overseas since World War II.[5] Another 128 Americans were wounded in the blast. Thirteen later died of their injuries, and they are numbered among the total number who died.[6] An elderly Lebanese man, a custodian/vendor who was known to work and sleep in his concession stand next to the building, was also killed in the first blast.[7][8][9] The explosives used were later estimated to be equivalent to as much as 9,525 kg (21,000 pounds) of TNT.[10][11]

In the attack on the French barracks, the nine-story ‘Drakkar’ building, 55 paratroopers from the 1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment and 3 paratroopers of the 9th Parachute Chasseur Regiment were killed and 15 injured by a second truck bomb. This attack occurred just minutes after the attack on the American Marines. It was France’s single worst military loss since the end of the Algerian War.[12] The wife and four children of a Lebanese janitor at the French building were also killed, and more than twenty other Lebanese civilians were injured.[13]

These attacks eventually led to the withdrawal of the international peacekeeping force from Lebanon, where they had been stationed since the withdrawal of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) following the Israeliinvasion of Lebanon in 1982.

The bombings: Sunday, October 23, 1983

The USMC barracks in Beirut

The building in 1982

The Drakkar building the French paratroopers were using for a barracks in October, 1983

Sketch map of the route taken by the suicide bomber on the morning of October 23, 1983. [From the Long Commission Report].

At around 06:22, a 19-ton yellow Mercedes-Benz stake-bed truck drove to the Beirut International Airport (BIA), where theU.S. 24th Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) was deployed. The 1st Battalion 8th Marines (BLT), commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Larry Gerlach, was a subordinate element of the 24th MAU. The truck was not the water truck they had been expecting. Instead, it was a hijacked truck carrying explosives. The driver turned his truck onto an access road leading to the compound. He drove into and circled the parking lot, and then he accelerated to crash through a 5-foot-high barrier ofconcertina wire separating the parking lot from the building. The wire popped “like somebody walking on twigs.”[14] The truck then passed between two sentry posts and through an open vehicle gate in the perimeter chain-link fence, crashed through a guard shack in front of the building and smashed into the lobby of the building serving as the barracks for the 1st Battalion 8th Marines (BLT). The sentries at the gate were operating under rules of engagement which made it very difficult to respond quickly to the truck. Sentries were ordered to keep their weapons at condition four (no magazine inserted and no rounds in the chamber). Only one sentry, LCpl Eddie DiFranco, was able to load and chamber a round. However, by that time the truck was already crashing into the building’s entryway.[15]

The suicide bomber, an Iranian national named Ismail Ascari,[16][17] detonated his explosives, which were later estimated to be equivalent to approximately 9,525 kilograms (21,000 pounds) of TNT.[10][11] The force of the explosion collapsed the four-story building into rubble, crushing many inside. According to Eric Hammel in his history of the U.S. Marine landing force,

“The force of the explosion initially lifted the entire four-story structure, shearing the bases of the concrete support columns, each measuring fifteen feet in circumference and reinforced by numerous one-and-three-quarter-inch steel rods. The airborne building then fell in upon itself. A massive shock wave and ball of flaming gas was hurled in all directions.”[18]

The explosive mechanism was a gas-enhanced device consisting of compressed butane in canisters employed with pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) to create a fuel-air explosive.[10][11] The bomb was carried on a layer of concrete covered with a slab of marble to direct the blast upward.[19] Despite the lack of sophistication and wide availability of its component parts, a gas-enhanced device can be a lethal weapon. These devices were similar to fuel-air or thermobaric weapons, explaining the large blast and damage.[20] An after-action forensic investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) determined that the bomb was so powerful that it probably would have brought down the building even if the sentries had managed to stop the truck between the gate and the building.[21]

Less than ten minutes later, a similar attack occurred against the barracks of the French 3rd Company of the 1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment, 6 km away in the Ramlet al Baida area of West Beirut.[22] As the suicide bomber drove his pickup truck toward the “Drakkar” building, French paratroopers began shooting at the truck and its driver.[22] It is believed that the driver was killed and the truck was immobilized and rolled to stop about fifteen yards from the building.[22] A few moments passed before the truck exploded, bringing down the nine-story building and killing 58 French paratroopers.[22] It is believed that this bomb was detonated by remote control and that, though similarly constructed, it was smaller than and slightly less than half as powerful as the one used against the Marines at the Beirut International Airport.[22] Many of the paratroopers had gathered on their balconies moments earlier to see what was happening at the airport.[23] It was France’s worst military loss since the end of the Algerian War in 1962.[24]

Beirut: June 1982 to October 1983


6 June 1982Israel invaded Lebanon: Operation “Peace for Galilee.”
23 August 1982Bachir Gemayel was elected to be Lebanon’s president.
25 August 1982 — A MNF of approximately 400 French, 800 Italian soldiers and 800 Marines of the 32d Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) were deployed in Beirut as part of a peacekeeping force to oversee the evacuation of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) guerrillas.
10 September 1982 — The PLO retreats from Beirut under MNF protection. Subsequently, the 32d MAU was ordered out of Beirut by the President of the United States.
14 September 1982 — Lebanon’s President, Bachir Gemayel, was assassinated.
16 September to 18 September 1982 — The Sabra and Shatila massacres.
21 September 1982 — Bachir Gemayel’s brother, Amine Gemayel, was elected to be Lebanon’s president.
29 September 1982 — The 32d MAU was redeployed to Beirut (primarily at the BIA) rejoining 2,200 French and Italian MNF troops already in place.
30 October 1982 — The 32d MAU was relieved by the 24th MAU.
15 February 1983 — The 32d MAU, redesignated as the 22d MAU, returned to Lebanon to relieve the 24th MAU.
18 April 1983 — The US Embassy bombing in Beirut killed 63, of whom 17 were Americans.
17 May 1983May 17 Agreement of 1983
30 May 1983 — The 24th MAU relieved the 22d MAU.


On June 6, 1982, Israel initiated Operation “Peace for Galilee” and invaded Lebanon ostensibly to create a 40 km buffer zone between the PLO and Syrian forces in Lebanon and Israel.[26][27][28] The Israeli invasion was tacitly approved by the U.S., and the U.S. provided overt military support to Israel in the form of arms and matériel.[29] However, what the U.S. agreed to support and what Israel did were altogether two separate matters.[26][30] Nevertheless, the U.S.’ ‘apparent support’ for Israel’s invasion of Lebanon taken in conjunction with U.S. support for Lebanese President Bachir Gemayel and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) alienated many.[31] Bachir Gemayel was the legally elected president, but he was a partisan Maronite Christian and covert associate of Israel.[32] These factors served to disaffect the Lebanese Muslim and Druze communities. This animosity was made worse by the Phalangist, a right-wing, largely Maronite-Lebanese militia force closely associated with U.S. backed President Gemayel. The Phalangist militia was responsible for multiple, bloody attacks against the Muslim and Druze communities in Lebanon and for the 1982 atrocites committed in the PLO refugee camps, Sabra and Shatila, while the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) provided security and looked on.[33][34] The Phalangist militia’s attacks on Sabra and Shatila were puportedly a response to the September 14, 1982, assassination of President-elect Bachir Gemayel.[33][35][36]Amine Gemayel, Bachir’s brother, succeeded Bachir as the elected president of Lebanon, and Amine continued to represent and advance Maronite interests.

All of this, according to British foreign correspondent Robert Fisk, served to generate ill will against the MNF among Lebanese Muslims and especially among theShiites living in the slums of West Beirut and around the Beirut International Airport where the U.S. Marines were located. Lebanese Muslims were manipulated into believing the MNF, and the Americans in particular, were unfairly siding with the Maronite Christians in their attempt to dominate Lebanon.[37][38][39] Muslim feelings against the American presence were “exacerbated when counter-battery missiles lobbed by the U.S. Sixth Fleet hit innocent by-standers in the Druze-dominated Shuf mountains.”[40]

Colonel Timothy J. Geraghty, the commander of the U.S. 24th Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) deployed as peacekeepers in Beirut during the incident, has said that the American and the French headquarters were targeted primarily because of “who we were and what we represented”[41] and that,

It is noteworthy that the United States provided direct naval gunfire support—which I strongly opposed for a week—to the Lebanese Army at a mountain village called Suq-al-Garb on 19 September and that the French conducted an air strike on 23 September in the Bekaa Valley. American support removed any lingering doubts of our neutrality, and I stated to my staff at the time that we were going to pay in blood for this decision.[42]

The naval gunfire support Colonel Geraghty referenced was from four U.S. warships: the USS Virginia, USS Arthur W. Radford, USS Bowen, and USS John Rodgers. Prior to September 19, the USS Bowen had fired an interdiction mission on September 7, and the USS Bowen and USS John Rodgers had together fired another interdiction mission on September 16 to intimidate Syrian and Druze militia firing on the Marines.[43]

Some authors, including Thomas Friedman, point to the use of this naval gunfire on September 19 as the beginning point of the U.S. forces being seen as participants in the civil war rather than peace keepers and opening them up to retaliation.[44][45] In his memoir, General Colin Powell (at the time an assistant toCaspar Weinberger) noted, as Colonel Geraghty had already projected, that “When the shells started falling on the Shiites, they assumed the American ‘referee’ had taken sides.”[46] Some analysts subsequently criticized the decision to have U.S. warships shell Druze and Syrian forces. They claim that this action forced a shift in the previously neutral U.S. forces by convincing local Lebanese Muslims that the U.S. had sided with the Lebanese Christians.[47]

In 1982, the Islamic Republic of Iran established a base in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. That base is still operational today. From that base, Iran’sIslamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) “founded, financed, trained and equipped Hezbollah to operate as a proxy army” for Iran.[48] Some analysts believe the newly formed Islamic Republic of Iran was heavily involved in the bomb attacks and that a major factor leading it to orchestrate the attacks on the barracks was America’s support for Iraq in the Iran–Iraq War and its extending of $2.5 billion in trade credit to Iraq while halting the shipments of arms to Iran.[49] A few weeks before the bombing, Iran warned that providing armaments to Iran’s enemies would provoke retaliatory punishment.[Notes 1] On September 26, 1983, “the National Security Agency (NSA) intercepted an Iranian diplomatic communications message from the Iranian intelligence agency, the Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS),” to its ambassador, Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, in Damascus. The message directed the ambassador to “take spectacular action against the American Marines.”[50] The intercepted message, dated September 26, would not be passed to the Marines until October 26: three days after the bombing.[51]

Much of what is now public knowledge of Iranian involvement, e.g., PETN purportedly supplied by Iran, the suicide bomber’s name and nationality, etc., in the bombings was not revealed to the public until the 2003 trial, Peterson, et al v. Islamic Republic, et al.[10] Testimony by Admiral James “Ace” Lyon’s, U.S.N. (Ret), and FBI forensic explosive investigator Danny A. Defenbaugh, plus a deposition by a Hezbollah operative named Mahmoud (a pseudonym) were particularly revealing.[52]

Rescue and recovery operations: October 23 to 28, 1983


Marine Gen. P.X. Kelley (left) and Col. Tim Geraghty (right) take Vice President George H.W. Bush on a tour around the site of the Beirut barracks bombing two days after the explosion.

Organized rescue efforts began immediately—within three minutes of the bombing—and continued for days.[53] Unit maintenance personnel were not billeted in the BLT building, and they rounded up pry bars, torches, jacks and other equipment from unit vehicles and maintenance shops and began rescue operations.[54] Meanwhile, combat engineers and truck drivers began using their organic assets, i.e., trucks and engineering equipment, to help with the rescue operations.[55]24th MAU medical personnel, Navy dentists LT Gil Bigelow and LT Jim Ware, established two aid stations to triage and treat casualties.[56][57][58]Medevac helicopters, CH-46s from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM-162), were airborne by 6:45 AM.[59] U.S. Navy medical personnel from nearby vessels of the U.S. Sixth Fleet went ashore to assist with treatment and medical evacuation of the injured,[60][61] as did sailors and shipboard Marines who volunteered to assist with the rescue effort.[62] Lebanese, Italian, British, and even French troops, who had suffered their own loss, provided assistance.[63][64]

Many Lebanese civilians voluntarily joined the rescue effort.[65] Especially important was a Lebanese construction contractor, Rafiq Hariri of the firm Oger-Liban, who provided heavy construction equipment, e.g., a 40-ton P & H crane, etc., from nearby BIA worksites. Hariri’s construction equipment proved vitally necessary in lifting and removing heavy slabs of concrete debris at the barracks site just as it had been necessary in assisting with clearing debris after the April U.S. Embassy attack.[65][66]

Marine Barracks in Beirut moments after bombing, October 23, 1983

While the rescuers were at times hindered by hostile sniper and artillery fire, several Marine survivors were pulled from the rubble at the BLT 1/8 bomb site and airlifted by helicopter to the USS Iwo Jima, located offshore. U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Forceand Royal Air Force medevac planes transported the seriously wounded to the hospital at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus and to U.S. and German hospitals in West Germany.[62][67] A few survivors, including LTC Gerlach, were sent to the Italian MNF dispensary and to Lebanese hospitals in Beirut.[68][69] Israel’s offers to medevac the wounded to hospitals in Israel were rejected as politically unacceptable even though Israeli hospitals were known to provide excellent care and were considerably closer than hospitals in Germany.[25][70]

At about noon Sunday, October 23, the last survivor was pulled from the rubble; he was LTJG Danny G. Wheeler, Lutheran chaplain for BLT 1/8.[71] Other men survived beyond Sunday, but they succumbed to their injuries before they could be extracted from the rubble.[72] By Wednesday, the majority of the bodies and body parts had been recovered from the stricken barracks, and the recovery effort ended on Friday.[73][74] After five days, the FBI came in to investigate, and the Marines returned to normal duties.[74]


“The explosion at the French barracks blew the whole building off its foundations and threw it about 6 meters (20 feet) westward, while breaking the windows of almost every apartment house in the neighborhood…Grim-faced French paratroopers and Lebanese civil defense workers aided by bulldozers also worked under spotlights through the night at the French barracks, trying to pull apart the eight stories of 90 centimeter (3 foot) thick cement that had fallen on top of one another and to reach the men they could still hear screaming for help. They regularly pumped oxygen into the mountain of rubble to keep those who were still trapped below alive.”[13]

American and French response

File:Reagan Speech Beirut Bombing.ogv
President Ronald Reagan’s keynote speech to the Rev. Jerry Falwell‘s “Baptist Fundamentalism ’84” convention: the marines and their chaplains at the scene of the bombing

U.S. President Ronald Reagan called the attack a “despicable act”[75] and pledged to keep a military force in Lebanon. U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, who had privately advised the administration against stationing U.S. Marines in Lebanon,[76] said there would be no change in the U.S.’s Lebanon policy. French PresidentFrançois Mitterrand and other French dignitaries visited both the French and American bomb sites to offer their personal condolences on Monday, October 24, 1983. It was not an official visit, and President Mitterrand only stayed for a few hours, but he did declare “We will stay.”[77] During his visit, President Mitterrand visited each of the scores of American caskets and made the sign of the cross as his mark of respectful observance for each of the fallen peacekeepers.[78] U.S. Vice President George H. W. Bush arrived and made a tour of the destroyed BLT barracks on Wednesday, October 26, 1983. Vice President Bush toured the site and said the U.S. “would not be cowed by terrorists.”[77] Vice President Bush also visited with wounded U.S. personnel aboard the U.S.S. Iwo Jima (LPH-2), and he took time to meet with the commanders of the other MNF units (French, Italian and British) deployed in Beirut.[79]

In retaliation for the attacks, France launched an airstrike in the Beqaa Valley against alleged Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) positions. President Reagan assembled his national security team and planned to target the Sheik Abdullah barracks in Baalbek, Lebanon, which housed Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) believed to be training Hezbollah militants.[80] A joint American-French air assault on the camp where the bombing was planned was also approved by Reagan and Mitterrand. U.S. Defense Secretary Weinberger lobbied successfully against the mission, because at the time it was not certain that Iran was behind the attack.[81]

Some of the U.S. Marines in Beirut were moved to transport vessels offshore where they could not be targeted; yet, they would be ready and available to serve as a ready reaction force in Beirut if needed.[82] For protection against snipers and artillery attacks, the Marines remaining at the airport built and moved into bunkers in the ground employing ‘appropriated’ Soviet-bloc CONEXes.[83][84]

Chaplains, U.S. Marines and family members observe a moment of silence during a memorial service

Col Geraghty requested and received reinforcements to replace his unit losses.[85] BLT 2/6, the Division Marine Air Alert Battalion stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and commanded by LtCol Edwin C. Kelley, was dispatched and flown into Beirut by four C-141s in less than 36 hours after the bombing.[86] LtCol Kelley officially replaced the seriously injured BLT 1/8 commander, LtCol Gerlach. LtCol Kelley quietly redesignated his unit, BLT 2/6, as BLT 1/8 to help bolster the morale of the BLT 1/8 survivors.[87] On November 18, 1983, the 22d MAU rotated into Beirut and relieved in place the 24th MAU.[88] The 24th MAU returned to Camp Lejeune, NC, for training and refitting.

Eventually, it became evident that the U.S. would launch no serious and immediate retaliatory attack for the Beirut Marine barracks bombing beyond naval barrages and air strikes used to interdict continuous harassing fire from Druze and Syrian missile and artillery sites.[89] A true retaliatory strike failed to materialize because there was a rift in White House counsel (largely between George P. Shultz of the Department of State and Weinberger of the Department of Defense) and because the extant evidence pointing at Iranian involvement was circumstantial at that time: the Islamic Jihad, which took credit for the attack, was a front for Hezbollah which was acting as a proxy for Iran; thus, affording Iran plausible deniability.[10] Secretary of State Schultz was an advocate for retaliaton, but Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger was against retaliation. Secretary of Defense Weinberger, in a September 2001 FRONTLINE interview, reaffirmed that rift in White House counsel when he claimed that the U.S. still lacks “‘actual knowledge of who did the bombing’ of the Marine barracks.”[81]

The USS New Jersey had arrived and taken up station off Beirut on September 25, 1983. Special Representative in the Middle East Robert McFarlane‘s team had requested the New Jersey after the August 29th Druze mortar attack that killed two Marines.[90] After the October 23rd bombing, on November 28, the U.S. government announced that the New Jersey would remain stationed off Beirut although her crew would be rotated. It wasn’t until December 14 that the New Jerseyfinally joined the fray and fired 11 projectiles from her 16-inch guns at hostile targets near Beirut. “This was the first time 16-inch shells were fired for effect anywhere in the world since the New Jersey ended her time on the gunline in Vietnam in 1969.”[91] Also in December 1983, U.S. aircraft from the USS John F. Kennedy and USS Independence battle groups attacked Syrian targets in Lebanon, but this was ostensibly in response to Syrian missile attacks on American warplanes.

In the meantime, the attack boosted the prestige and growth of the Shiite organization Hezbollah. Hezbollah officially denied any involvement in the attacks, but was seen by Lebanese as involved nonetheless as it praised the “two martyr mujahideen” who “set out to inflict upon the U.S. Administration an utter defeat, not experienced since Vietnam.”[92] Hezbollah was now seen by many as “the spearhead of the sacred Muslim struggle against foreign occupation”.[93]

The 1983 report of the U.S. Department of Defense Commission’s on the attack recommended that the National Security Council investigate and consider alternative ways to reach “American objectives in Lebanon” because, “as progress to diplomatic solutions slows,” the security of the USMNF base continues to “deteriorate.” The commission also recommended a review for the development of a broader range of “appropriate military, political, and diplomatic responses to terrorism.” Military preparedness needed improvement in the development of “doctrine, planning, organization, force structure, education, and training” to better combat terrorism, while the USMNF was “not prepared” to deal with the terrorist threat at the time due to “lack of training, staff, organization, and support” specifically for defending against “terror threats.”[94]

Amal Movement leader Nabih Berri, who had previously supported U.S. mediation efforts, asked the U.S. and France to leave Lebanon and accused the two countries of seeking to commit ‘massacres’ against the Lebanese and of creating a “climate of racism” against Shias.[95] Islamic Jihad phoned in new threats against the MNF pledging that “the earth would tremble” unless the MNF withdrew by New Year’s Day 1984.[96]

USS New Jersey fires a salvo against anti-government forces in the Shouf, January 9, 1984

On February 7, 1984, President Reagan ordered the Marines to begin withdrawing from Lebanon largely because of waning congressional support for the mission after the attacks on the barracks.[97][98][99][100][101][102] The withdrawal of the 22d MAU from the BIA was completed 12:37 PM on February 26, 1984.[103] “Fighting between the Lebanese Army and Druze militia in the nearby Shouf mountains provided a noisy backdrop to the Marine evacuation. One officer commented: ‘This ceasefire is getting louder.'”[104]

On February 8, 1984, the U.S.S. New Jersey fired almost 300 shells at Druze and Syrian positions in the Beqaa Valley east of Beirut. This was the heaviest shore bombardment since the Korean War.[105] “In a nine-hour period, the U.S.S. New Jersey fired 288 16-inch rounds, each one weighing as much as a Volkswagen Beetle. In those nine-hours, the ship consumed 40 percent of the 16-inch ammunition available in the entire European theater…[and] in one burst of wretched excess,” the New Jersey seemed to be unleashing eighteen months of repressed fury.[106]

“Many Lebanese still recall the ‘flying Volkswagens,’ the name given to the huge shells that struck the Shouf.”[107] In addition to destroying Syrian and Druze artillery and missile sites, approximately 30 of these behemoth projectiles rained down on a Syrian command post, killing the senior commanding Syrian general in Lebanon along with several of his senior officers.[108] Some of New Jersey’s shells missed their intended targets and killed non-combatants, mostly Shiites and Druze.[109]

Following the U.S.’ lead, the rest of the multinational force, the British, French and Italians, was withdrawn by the end of February 1984.[110][111] The ship borne 22d MAU contingent remained stationed offshore near Beirut while a detached 100 man ready reaction force remained stationed ashore near the U.S./U.K. Embassy.[112] The 22d MAU was relieved in place by the 24th MAU on April 10, 1984. On April 21, the ready reaction force in Beirut was deactivated and its men were reassigned to their respective ships. In late July, 1984, the last Marines from the 24th MAU, the U.S./U.K. Embassy guard detail, was withdrawn from Beirut.[25][112]


Search for perpetrators

At the time of the bombing, an obscure group called the “Islamic Jihad” claimed responsibility for the attack.[113][114] There were many in the U.S. government, such as Vice President Bush, Secretary of State George Shultz, and National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane (who was formerly Reagan’s Mideast envoy), who believed Iran and/or Syria were/was responsible for the bombings.[115][116] After some years of investigation, the U.S. government now believes that elements of what would eventually become Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, were responsible for these bombings[114][117] as well as the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut earlier in April.[118][119] It is believed that Hezbollah used the name “Islamic Jihad” in order to remain anonymous. Hezbollah eventually announced its existence in 1985.[120][121] To date, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria have continued to deny any involvement in any of the bombings; even though, in 2004, the Iranian government erected a monument in Tehran to commemorate the 1983 bombings and its “martyrs”.[16]

Lebanese author Hala Jaber claims that Iran and Syria helped organize the bombing which was run by two Lebanese Shia, Imad Mughniyah and Mustafa Badr Al Din:

Imad Mughniyeh and Mustafa Badr Al Din took charge of the Syrian-Iranian backed operation. Mughniyeh had been a highly trained security man with the PLO’s Force 17 . . . Their mission was to gather information and details about the American embassy and draw up a plan that would guarantee the maximum impact and leave no trace of the perpetrator. Meetings were held at the Iranian embassy in Damascus. They were usually chaired by the ambassador, Hojatoleslam Ali-Akbar Mohtashemi, who played an instrumental role in founding Hezbollah. In consultation with several senior Syrian intelligence officers, the final plan was set in motion. The vehicle and explosives were prepared in the Bekaa Valley which was under Syrian control.[122]

Two years after the bombing, a U.S. grand jury secretly indicted Imad Mughniyah for his terrorist activities.[123] Mughniyah was never captured, but he was killed by a car bomb in Syria on February 12, 2008.[123][124][125][126]

Commentators argue that the lack of a response by the Americans emboldened terrorist organizations to conduct further attacks against U.S. targets.[8][127] Along with the U.S. embassy bombing, the barracks bombing prompted the Inman Report, a review of the security of U.S. facilities overseas for the U.S. State Department.

Alleged retaliation

On March 8, 1985, a truck bomb blew up in Beirut killing more than 80 people and injuring more than two hundred. The bomb detonated near the apartment block of Sheikh Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, a Shia cleric thought by many to be the spiritual leader of Hezbollah. Although the U.S. did not engage in any direct military retaliation to the attack on the Beirut barracks, the 1985 bombing was widely believed by Fadlallah and his supporters to be the work of the United States; Sheikh Fadlallah stating that “‘They sent me a letter and I got the message,’ and an enormous sign on the remains of one bombed building read: ‘Made in the U.S.A.'” Robert Fisk also claims that CIA operatives planted the bomb and that evidence of this is found in an article in The Washington Post newspaper.[128]Journalist Robin Wright quotes articles in The Washington Post and The New York Times as saying that according to the CIA the “Lebanese intelligence personnel and other foreigners had been undergoing CIA training”[129] but that “this was not our [CIA] operation and it was nothing we planned or knew about.”[130] “Alarmed U.S. officials subsequently canceled the covert training operation” in Lebanon, according to Wright.[131]

Lessons learned

Shortly after the barracks bombing, President Ronald Reagan appointed a military fact-finding committee headed by retired Admiral Robert L. J. Long to investigate the bombing. The commission’s report found senior military officials responsible for security lapses and blamed the military chain of command for the disaster. It suggested that there might have been many fewer deaths if the barracks guards had carried loaded weapons and a barrier more substantial than the barbed wire the bomber drove over easily. The commission also noted that the “prevalent view” among U.S. commanders was that there was a direct link between the navy shelling of the Muslims at Suq-al-Garb and the truck bomb attack.[132][133]

Following the bombing and the realization that insurgents could deliver weapons of enormous yield with an ordinary truck or van, the presence of protective barriers (bollards) became common around critical government facilities in the United States and elsewhere, particularly Western civic targets situated overseas.[134]

An article in Foreign Policy titled “Lesson Unlearned” argues that the U.S. military intervention in the Lebanese Civil War has been downplayed or ignored in popular history – thus unlearned – and that lessons from Lebanon are “unlearned” as the U.S. militarily intervenes elsewhere in the world.[135]

Civil suit against Iran

On October 3 and December 28, 2001, the families of the 241 servicemen who were killed as well as several injured survivors filed civilsuits against Islamic Republic of Iran and the Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. [136] In their separate complaints, the families and survivors sought a judgment that Iran was responsible for the attack and relief in the form of damages (compensatory and punitive) for wrongful deathand common-law claims for battery, assault, and intentional infliction of emotional distress resulting from an act of state-sponsored terrorism.[136]

Iran (the defendant) was served with the two complaints (one from Deborah D. Peterson, Personal Representative of the Estate of James C. Knipple, et al., the other from Joseph and Marie Boulos, Personal Representatives of the Estate of Jeffrey Joseph Boulos) on May 6 and July 17, 2002.[136] Iran denied responsibility for the attack[137] but did not file any response to the claims of the families.[136] On December 18, 2002, Judge Royce C. Lamberth entered defaults against defendants in both cases.[136]

On May 30, 2003, Lamberth found Iran legally responsible for providing Hezbollah with financial and logistical support that helped them carry out the attack.[136][138]Lamberth concluded that the court had personal jurisdiction over the defendants under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, that Hezbollah was formed under the auspices of the Iranian government and was completely reliant on Iran in 1983, and that Hezbollah carried out the attack in conjunction with MOIS agents.[136]

On September 7, 2007, Lamberth awarded $2,656,944,877 to the plaintiffs. The judgment was divided up among the victims; the largest award was $12 million to Larry Gerlach, who became a quadriplegic as a result of a broken neck he suffered in the attack.[139]

The attorney for the families of the victims uncovered some new information, including a U.S. National Security Agency intercept of a message sent from Iranian intelligence headquarters in Tehran to Hojjat ol-eslam Ali-Akbar Mohtashemi, the Iranian ambassador in Damascus. As it was paraphrased by presiding U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth, “The message directed the Iranian ambassador to contact Hussein Musawi, the leader of the terrorist group Islamic Amal, and to instruct him … ‘to take a spectacular action against the United States Marines.'”[140] Musawi’s Islamic Amal was a breakaway faction of the Amal Movement and an autonomous part of embryonic Hezbollah.[141]

In July 2012, federal Judge Royce Lamberth ordered Iran to pay more than $813m in damages and interest to the families of the 241 U.S. servicemen that were killed, writing in a ruling that Tehran had to be “punished to the fullest extent legally possible… Iran is racking up quite a bill from its sponsorship of terrorism.”[142][143][144][145] As of November 2015 the families have not collected a dime from the judgement.

Mossad conspiracy theory

Former Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky, in his 1990 book By Way of Deception, has accused the Mossad of knowing the specific time and location of the bombing, but only gave general information to the Americans of the attack, information which was worthless. According to Ostrovsky, then Mossad head Nahum Admonidecided against giving the specific details to the Americans on the grounds that the Mossad’s responsibility was to protect Israel’s interests, not Americans. Admoni denied having any prior knowledge of the attack.[146] Ostrovsky further claimed that among the high level officers of the Mossad there was a view that if the Americans “wanted to stick their nose into this Lebanon thing, let them pay the price.”[147]Benny Morris, in his review of Ostrovsky’s book, wrote that Ostrovsky was “barely a case officer before he was fired; most of his (brief) time in the agency was spent as a trainee” adding that due to compartmentalization “he did not and could not have had much knowledge of then current Mossad operations, let alone operational history.” Benny Morris wrote that the claim regarding the barracks was “odd” and an example of one of Ostrovsky’s “wet” stories which were “mostly fabricated.”[148]

Terrorism classification

The bombing was categorized by the U.S. as an act of terrorism.[149] However, according to academic Oded Lowenheim, the U.S. Marines had become allied with the Maronite Christians in Lebanon and were actively engaging in battles, thus waiving their non-combatant status.[149] The U.S. still categorized this attack as an act of terrorism as it was directed against off-duty servicemen, whom the U.S. defines as non-combatants.

Memorials and remembrance

Main article: Beirut Memorial

Beirut Memorial, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune

A Beirut Memorial has been established at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, and has been used as the site of annual memorial services for the victims of the attack.[150] A Beirut Memorial Room at the USO in Jacksonville, North Carolina has also been created.[151]

The Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center, the site of Chaplain Corps training for the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force at Fort Jackson, Columbia, South Carolina, includes the partially destroyed sign from the Beirut barracks chapel as a memorial to those who died in the attack.[152] According to Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, one of the navy chaplains present during the attack, “Amidst the rubble, we found the plywood board which we had made for our “Peace-keeping Chapel.” The Chaplain Corps Seal had been hand-painted, with the words “Peace-keeping” above it, and “Chapel” beneath. Now “Peace-keeping” was legible, but the bottom of the plaque was destroyed, with only a few burned and splintered pieces of wood remaining. The idea of peace – above; the reality of war – below.”[152]

Sign from the “Peacekeeping Chapel” at the Marine Barracks, on display at the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center, Fort Jackson.

Other memorials to the victims of the Beirut barracks bombing have been erected in various locations within the U.S., including one at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Boston Ma. and one in Florida.[153] Additionally, a Lebanese cedar has been planted in Arlington National Cemetery near the graves of some of the victims of the attack, in their memory.[154] A plaque in the ground in front of the tree, dedicated in a ceremony on the first anniversary of the attack, reads: “Let peace take root: This cedar of Lebanon tree grows in living memory of the Americans killed in the Beirut terrorist attack and all victims of terrorism around the world.” [155] The National Museum of the Marine Corps, in Quantico, Virginia, unveiled an exhibit in 2008 in memory of the attack and its victims.[156]

One memorial to the attack is located outside the U.S., where Gilla Gerzon, the director of the Haifa, Israel USO during the time of the attack coordinated the creation of a memorial park that included 241 olive trees, one for each of the U.S. military personnel who died in the attack.[157] The trees lead to an overpass on Mount Carmel looking toward Beirut.[157][158]

There is also an ongoing effort on the part of Beirut veterans and family members to convince the U.S. Postal Service andCitizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee to create a stamp in memory of the victims of the attack, but the recommendation has not yet been approved.[159][160] In the meantime, Beirut veterans have created a “PC Postage” commercially produced Beirut Memorial statue private vendor stamp (with or without the words “They Came in Peace”) that is approved for use as postage by the U.S. Postal Service.[160]

Tribute to 58 French paratroopers of the 1st and 9th RCP who died for France in the ‘Drakkar’ building in Beirut on October 23, 1983.

See also

Lebanese Civil War

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Lebanese Civil War
Martyrs Square 1982.jpg
The Martyr’s Square statue in Beirut, 1982, during the civil war
Date 13 April 1975 – 13 October 1990
(15 years and 6 months)
(Syrian occupation ended on 30 April 2005)
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
  • conflict in South Lebanon
Forces Libanaises Flag.svg LF
SLA (from 1976)
 Israel(from 1978)

Tigers Militia(until 1980)

Marada Brigades (left LF in 1978; aligned with Syria)Lebanon LNM(until 1982)
LebanonJammoul(from 1982)
Palestine Liberation Organization PLO

Amal Movement

(from 1985)
 Iran(From 1980, mainly IRGCparamilitary units)

Islamic Unification Movement(from 1982)Lebanon LAF
United Nations UNIFIL(from 1978)
Multinational Force in Lebanon(1982–1984)
 United States
France France

Arab Deterrent Force (1976–1983)

Syria Syria1976, and from 1983

Neutral Parties:Armenian Revolutionary Federation


Commanders and leaders Bachir Gemayel 
Amine Gemayel
William Hawi 
Samir Geagea
Michel Aoun
Etienne Saqr
Al-Tanzim logo.pngGeorges Adwan
Saad Haddad
Antoine Lahad
IsraelMenachem Begin
Israel Ariel Sharon


Dany Chamoun 

Tony Frangieh 
Suleiman Frangieh Kamal Jumblatt 
Walid Jumblatt
Inaam Raad
Abdallah Saadeh
Assem Qanso
George Hawi
Elias Atallah
Muhsin Ibrahim
Ibrahim Kulaylat
Ali Eid
Palestine Liberation Organization Yasser Arafat
George Habash

Nabih Berri

Abbas al-Musawi

Said ShaabanUnited NationsEmmanuel A. Erskine
United Nations William O’Callaghan
United Nations Gustav Hägglund
United StatesTimothy J. GeraghtySyria Hafez al-Assad
SyriaMustafa TlassCentral Commander of ARF in Lebanon120,000–150,000 people killed[1]

The Lebanese Civil War (Arabic: الحرب الأهلية اللبنانية‎ – Al-Ḥarb al-Ahliyyah al-Libnāniyyah) was a multifaceted civil war in Lebanon, lasting from 1975 to 1990 and resulting in an estimated 120,000 fatalities.[2][3] As of 2012, approximately 76,000 people remain displaced within Lebanon.[4] There was also an exodus of almost one million people from Lebanon as a result of the war.[5]

Before the war, Lebanon was multisectarian, with Sunnis and Christians being the majorities on the coastal cities, Shias being mainly based in the south and the Beqaa to the east, with the mountains’s populations being in their majority Druze and Christian. The government of Lebanon had been run under a significant influence of the elites among the Maronite Christians.[6][7] The link between politics and religion had been reinforced under the mandate of the French colonial powers from 1920 to 1943, and the parliamentary structure favored a leading position for the Christians. However, the country had a large Muslim population and many pan-Arabistand Left Wing groups opposed the pro-western government. The establishment of the state of Israel and the displacement of a hundred thousand Palestinian refugees to Lebanon during the 1948 and 1967 exoduses contributed to shifting the demographic balance in favor of the Muslim population. The Cold War had a powerful disintegrative effect on Lebanon, which was closely linked to the polarization that preceded the 1958 political crisis, since Maronites sided with the West while Leftist and pan-Arab groups sided with Soviet-aligned Arab countries.[8]

Fighting between Maronite and Palestinian forces (mainly from the Palestine Liberation Organization) began in 1975, then Leftist, pan-Arabist and Muslim Lebanese groups formed an alliance with the Palestinians.[9] During the course of the fighting, alliances shifted rapidly and unpredictably. Furthermore, foreign powers, such as Israel and Syria, became involved in the war and fought alongside different factions. Peace keeping forces, such as the Multinational Force in Lebanon & UNIFIL, were also stationed in Lebanon.

The 1989 Taif Agreement marked the beginning of the end of the fighting. In January 1989, a committee appointed by the Arab League began to formulate solutions to the conflict. In March 1991, parliament passed an amnesty law that pardoned all political crimes prior to its enactment.[10] In May 1991, the militias were dissolved, with the exception of Hezbollah, while the Lebanese Armed Forces began to slowly rebuild as Lebanon’s only major non-sectarian institution.[11] Religious tensions between Sunnis and Shias remained after the war.[12]


Colonial rule

An 1860 civil war between Druze and Maronites erupted in the Ottoman province of Mount Lebanon, which had been divided between them in 1842. It resulted in the death of about 10,000 Christians and the victory of the Druze.

Soldiers in Mount Lebanonduring the mutasarrif period

World War I was hard for the Lebanese. While the rest of the world was occupied with the World War, the people in Lebanon were suffering from a famine that would last nearly four years. With the defeat and dissolution of the Ottoman Empire (1908–1922), Turkish rule ended.

France took control of the area under the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanonunder the League of Nations. The French created the state of Greater Lebanon as a safe haven for the Maronites, but included a large Muslim population within the borders. In 1926, Lebanon was declared a republic, and a constitution was adopted. However, the constitution was suspended in 1932. Various factions sought unity with Syria, or independence from the French.[13] In 1934, the country’s first (and only to date) census was conducted.

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


World War II and the 1940s brought great change to Lebanon and the Middle East.

Lebanon was promised independence and on 22 November 1943, during World War II, it was achieved. Free Frenchtroops, who had invaded Lebanon in 1941 to rid Beirut of the Vichy French forces, left the country in 1946. The Maronites assumed power over the country and economy. A parliament was created, in which both Muslims andChristians each had a set quota of seats. Accordingly, the President was to be a Maronite, the Prime Minister a SunniMuslim and the Speaker of Parliament a Shia Muslim.

The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine in late 1947 led to civil war in Palestine, the end of Mandatory Palestine, and the Israeli Declaration of Independence on 14 May 1948. With nationhood, the ongoing civil war was transformed into a state conflict between Israel and the Arab states, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. All this led to Palestinian refugeescrossing the border into Lebanon. Palestinians would go on to play a very important role in future Lebanese civil conflicts, while the establishment of Israel radically changed the region around Lebanon.

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 Chamounhad attempted to break the stranglehold on Lebanese politics exercised by traditional political families in Lebanon. These families maintained their electoral appeal by cultivating strong client-patron relations with their local communities. Although he succeeded in sponsoring alternative political candidates to enter the elections in 1957, causing the traditional families to lose their positions, these families then embarked upon a war with Chamoun, referred to as the War of the Pashas.

In previous years, tensions with Egypt had escalated in 1956 when the non-aligned President, Camille Chamoun, did not break off diplomatic relations with the Western powers that attacked Egypt during the Suez Crisis, angering Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. This was during the Cold War and Chamoun has often been called pro-Western, though he had signed several trade deals with the Soviet Union (see Gendzier). However, Nasser had attacked Chamoun because of his suspected support for the US led Baghdad Pact. Nasser felt that the pro-western Baghdad Pact posed a threat to Arab Nationalism. However, president Chamoun looked to regional pacts to ensure protection from foreign armies: Lebanon historically had a small cosmetic army that was never effective in defending Lebanon’s territorial integrity, and this is why in later years the PLO guerrilla factions had found it easy to enter Lebanon and set up bases, as well as 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 PLO but also lost many soldiers. Even prior to this, president Chamoun was aware of the country’s vulnerability to outside forces.

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

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

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

Demographic tensions

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 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 ragtag 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 that what began as a small and quiet demonstration to evolve into something more. The sniper targeted Saad right at the end of the demonstration as it was dissipating. Farid Khazen, sourcing the local histories of Sidon academics and eyewitnesses, gives a run-down of the puzzling events of the day that based on their research. Other interesting facts that Khazen reveals, based on the Sidon academic’s work including that Saad was not in dispute with the fishing consortium made up of Yugoslav nationals. In fact, the Yugoslavian representatives in Lebanon had negotiated with the fisherman’s union to make the fisherman shareholders in the company; the company offered to modernize the Fisherman’s equipment and buy their catch, give their fisherman’s a union and annual subsidy. Saad, as a union representative (and not the mayor of Sidon at the time as many erroneous sources claim), was offered a place on the company’s board too. There has been some speculation that Saad’s attempts to narrow the differences between the fishermen and the consortium, and his acceptance of a place on the board made him a target of attack by the conspirator who sought a full conflagration around the small protest. The events in Sidon were not contained for long. The government began to lose control of the situation in 1975.[citation needed]

Political groups and militias

In the run-up to the war and its early stages, militias tried to be politically-orientated non-sectarian forces,[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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[citation needed], 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 militias

Maronite groups

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,[14]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 orPhalangists, 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 Franjiehfamily and Zgharta, which became allied with Syria after breaking with the Lebanese Front in 1978.

To fight the Syrian and Palestinianpresence in Lebanon, the Lebanese Forces acted as the main military wing of the Lebanese Front, in the absence of the Lebanese Army.

The Lebanese Forces split with the Tigers in 1980.[citation needed] 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-SyrianTripartite 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 Commandwhich 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, meaning “tiger”. Trained by Naim Berdkan, the unit was led by Chamoun’s son Dany Chamoun. After the start Civil War in 1975, the Tigers, strong of 3,500 militiamen fought the Lebanese National Movement (LNM) and its Palestinian allies.

Secular groups

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

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

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

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

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party at the time had training camps in Lebanon, where they received support from the Syrians and the PLO. During the Israeli invasion, all PKK units were ordered to fight the Israeli forces. Eleven PKK fighters died in the conflict. Mahsum Korkmaz was the commander of all PKK forces in Lebanon.[15][16][17]

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 Movementand 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.[18][19]


Palestinian Fatah fighters in Beirutin 1979

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

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

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

Druze groups

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) (Arabic: الحزب التقدمي الاشتراكي, al-hizb al-taqadummi al-ishtiraki) served as an effective Druze militia, building excellent ties to the Soviet Union mainly, and with Syria upon the withdrawal of Israel to the south of the country. However, many Druze in Lebanon at the time were members of the non-religious party, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. Under 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 PSP is still an active political party in Lebanon. Its current leader is Walid Jumblatt. It is in practice led and supported mostly by followers of the Druze faith.

Shi’a Muslim groups

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 byAyatollah 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.[20]

Sunni Muslim groups

Some Sunni factions received support from Libya and Iraq, and a number of minor militias existed due to a general reluctance on the part of Sunnis to join military organisations throughout the civil war. The more prominent groups were secular and holding a Nasserist ideology, or otherwise having pan-Arab and Arab nationalist leanings. A few Islamist ones emerged at later stages of the war, such as the Tawhid Movement that took its base in Tripoli, and the Jama’a Islamiyya, which gave a Lebanese expression of the Muslim Brotherhood in terms of political orientations and practice. The main Sunni-led organization was the al-Murabitun, a major west-Beirut based force. Al-Murabitoun, led by Ibrahim Kulaylat, fought with the Palestinians against the Israelis during the invasion of 1982. There is also the Tanzim al-Nassiri in Sidon that was formed through the followers of Maaruf Saad, and who rallied later behind his son Mustafa Saad, and now are led by Usama Saad. The Sixth of February Movement was another pro-Palestinian Nasserist minor militia that sided with the PLO in the War of the Camps in the 1980s.

Armenian groups

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 theLebanese 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[21] and the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia did carry out assassinations and operations during the war.[22]

Chronological History of the War

April 13, 1975 Battles between the PLO and the Kataeb Christian militia spread to parts of Beirut, especially the downtown area which is totally destroyed leading to the demarcation line between the two parts of the city. Many militias are formed on both sides and hundreds of civilians are killed or taken hostage. The government divides and the army is split. The militias usurp many functions of the state.
January, 1976 The Karantina massacre and the Damour massacre
May, 1976 Elias Sarkis is elected president.
Summer, 1976 The Tel al-Zaatar massacre occcurs. The Syrian army intervenes for the first time.
October, 1976 An Arab League summit occurs to instill a ceasefire backed by the deployment of peacekeeping troops.
February – March, 1978 The Hundred Days’ War begins and the ceasefire ends. The United Nations sends troops and foreign powers deploy aid to the two sides of the war.
February, 1979 The Iranian revolution occurs helping to radicalize the Shiite movement in Lebanon.
July, 1980 Bashir Gemayel, leader of the Kataeb militia, unites all the Christian militias by force, putting in place the political party, Lebanese Forces.
Summer, 1982 The 1982 Lebanon War occurs as well as the Siege of Beirut. Bashir Gemayel is elected president on August 23 and assassinated September 14th. Soon after the Sabra and Shatila massacre occurs. The Israelis withdraw. Amin Gemayel is elected president.
April, 1983 1983 United States embassy bombing occurs.
Summer, 1983 The Mountain War begins.
October, 1983 1983 Beirut barracks bombing occurs.
February, 1984 The Lebanese army, after controlling Beirut since Israeli withdrawal, is expelled from West Beirut, accused of partisanship with the Lebanese forces, mass arrests, etc.The Amal Party and the Druze Progressive Socialist Party take control of West Beirut. The multi-nationals withdraw from Lebanon.
February, 1985 The Israelis withdraw from Sidon but remain in the south. Armed resistance to Israeli occupation intensifies. Especially from Hezbollah.The War of the Camps arises.
October, 1985 Assassination attempt on Hezbollah leader, Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.
June, December, 1987 Rashid Karami is assassinated on June 1, 1987. The First Intifada begins and the anger toward Israel in Lebanon increases. There are hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
September, 1988 Amin Gemayel‘s presidential term expires and he appoints the commander of the army, General Michel Aoun as interim prime minister.
March 14, 1989 General Aoun declares war on the Syrian presence in Lebanon. After seven months of shelling a ceasefire is negotiated by the Arab League.
October – November, 1989 The Taif Agreement occurs. René Moawad is elected president and is assassinated 17 days later. Elias Hrawi is then elected. General Aoun denounces the legitimacy of these presidencies and a new commander of the army is appointed.
January 30, 1990 Heavy fighting begins between the Lebanese army still under General Aoun’s control and the Lebanese Forces. As well as fighting between Amal and Hezbollah and continued resistance to Israeli occupation and Israeli reprisal raids.
October 13, 1990 General Aoun is forced out of the presidential palace and goes into exile. The October 13 massacre occurs. Selim Hoss assumes command of the country except for the part still occupied by Israel. The armed forces are reunited under a central command.
December 24, 1990 A National Reconciliation is formed under the leadership of Omar Karami. The Taif Agreement is for the first time being put into practice.
August 26, 1991 Parliament passes the law of General Amnesty.
Summer 1992 The first parliamentary elections in twenty years take place.


First phase 1975–77

Sectarian violence and massacres

Throughout the spring of 1975, minor clashes in Lebanon had been building up towards all-out conflict, with the Lebanese National Movement (LNM) pitted against the Phalange, and the ever-weaker national government wavering between the need to maintain order and cater to its constituency. On the morning of 13 April 1975, unidentified gunmen in a speeding car fired on a church in the Christian East Beirut suburb of Ain el-Rummaneh, killing four people including two MaronitePhalangists. 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 roadblocksthroughout 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 an estimated 1,000-1,500 people were killed by Maronite forces in theKarantina Massacre, followed two days later by a retaliatory strike on Damour by Palestinian militias. These two massacres prompted a mass exodus of Muslims and Christians, as people fearing retribution fled to areas under the control of their own sect. The ethnic and religious layout of the residential areas of the capital encouraged this process, and East and West Beirut were increasingly transformed into what was in effect Christian and Muslim Beirut. Also, the number of Maroniteleftists 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 intervention

Map showing power balance in Lebanon, 1976:
Dark Green – controlled by Syria;
Purple – controlled by Maronite groups;
Light Green – controlled by Palestinian militias

On 22 January 1976, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad brokered a truce between the two sides, while covertly beginning to move Syrian troops into Lebanon under the guise of the Palestine Liberation Army in order to bring the PLO back under Syrian influence and prevent the disintegration of Lebanon.[24] Despite this, the violence continued to escalate. In March 1976, Lebanese President Suleiman Frangieh requested that Syria formally intervene. Days later, Assad sent a message to the United States asking them not to interfere if he were to send troops into Lebanon.

On 8 May 1976, Elias Sarkis, who was supported by Syria, defeated Frangieh in a presidential election held by the Lebanese Parliament. However, Frangieh refused to step down.[25] On 1 June 1976, 12,000 regular Syrian troops entered Lebanon and began conducting operations against Palestinian and leftist militias.[26] 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.[27] Syria had its own political and territorial interests in Lebanon, which harbored cells of Sunni Islamists and anti-Ba’athist Muslim Brotherhood.

Since January, the Tel al-Zaatar refugee camp in East Beirut had been under siege by Maronite Christian militias. On 12 August 1976, supported by Syria, Maronite forces managed to overwhelm the Palestinian and leftist militias defending the camp. The Christian militia massacred 1,000-1,500 civilians,[28] 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 anArab 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.

From 1975-1975, 60,000 people were killed.[29]

Uneasy quiet

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 1977–82

Hundred Days War

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

It was fought between the Maronite Lebanese Forces (LF) militia, under the command of Bashir Gemayel, and the Syrian troops of the Arab Deterrent Force (ADF). The Syrian troops shelled the Christian Beirut area of Achrafiye for 100 days.

The conflict resulted in Syrian Army‘s expulsion from East Beirut, the end of Arab Deterrent Force‘s task in Lebanon and revealed the true intentions of the Syrians in Lebanon.

The conflict resulted in 160 dead[citation needed] and 400 injured.

1978 South Lebanon conflict

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.[30] Israel invaded Lebanon four days later inOperation Litani. The Israeli Army occupied most of the area south of the Litani River. The UN Security Council passedResolution 425 calling for immediate Israeli withdrawal and creating the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), charged with attempting to establish peace.

Security Zone

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.[31] 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.[32] Arafat refused to condemn these attacks on the grounds that the cease-fire was only relevant to Lebanon.[33] 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.[34] 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.[35]

Day of the Long Knives

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[citation needed].

Zahleh campaign

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.[36]

Demographically, Zahleh is one of the largest predominantly Christian towns in Lebanon.[37] 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.[36]

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 1982–83

Israeli invasion of Lebanon

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

Main article: 1982 Lebanon War

On 3 June 1982, the Abu Nidal Organization, a splinter group of Fatah, attempted to assassinate Israeli ambassador Shlomo Argovin London. Israel carried out a retaliatory aerial attack on PLO and PFLP targets in West Beirut that led to over 100 casualties.[38]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”.[39]

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.[40] On 8 June 1982, the United States vetoed a proposed resolution demanding that Israel withdraw.[41]

Siege of Beirut

Main article: Siege of Beirut

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-fire

On 26 June, a UN Security Council resolution was proposed that “demands the immediate withdrawal of the Israeli forces engaged round Beirut, to a distance of 10 kilometers from the periphery of that city, as a first step towards the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon, and the simultaneous withdrawal of the Palestinian armed forces from Beirut, which shall retire to the existing camps”;[42] the United States vetoed the resolution because it was “a transparent attempt to preserve the PLO as a viable political force”,[43] 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.[44]

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 intervention

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 massacre

The Kahan Commission was set up by the Israeli government to investigate the circumstances of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, in which up to 3,500 Muslim civilians were killed by the Lebanese Maronite forces.[45] “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.[46]

17 May Agreement

On 17 May 1983, Lebanon’s Amine Gemayel, Israel, and the United States signed an agreement[47] 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.[48] 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 violence

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 1983suicide 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, 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.[49]

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.[50][51] 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 bombing of the U.S. embassy annex in East Beirut on 20 September 1984, which killed 24, including 2 U.S. servicemen. The situation became serious enough to compel the U.S. State Department to invalidate 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.[50] The IRGC organized Hezbollah by drafting members from Shi’agroups resisting the Israeli occupation and from the main Shi’a movement, Nabih Berri‘s Amal Movement. The group found inspiration for its revolutionary Islamismin 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 1984–90

War of the Camps

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 Sabra and Shatila and Bourj el-Barajneh refugee camps were largely destroyed.[52]

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 government

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 ForcesCommanding General Michel Aoun, as acting Prime Minister, contravening the National Pact. Conflict in this period was also exacerbated by increasing Iraqiinvolvement, as Saddam Hussein searched for proxy battlefields for the Iran–Iraq War. To counter Iran’s influence through Amal and Hezbollah, Iraq backed Maronite groups; Saddam Hussein helped Aoun and the Lebanese Forces led by Samir Geagea between 1988 and 1990.[53]

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 government of Hafez al-Assad and claiming that he fought for Lebanon’s independence. While he seems to have had significant Maronite support for this, he was still perceived as a sectarian leader among others by the Muslim population, who distrusted his agenda. He was also plagued by the challenge to his legitimacy put forth by the Syrian-backed West Beirut government of Selim al-Hoss. Militarily, this war did not achieve its goal. Instead, it caused considerable damages to East Beirut and provoked massive emigration among the Christian population.

Taif Agreement

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

Main article: Taif Agreement

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

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

Infighting in East Beirut

Main article: October 13 massacre

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 theLebanese Army led by General Émile Lahoud) against Aoun’s stronghold around the presidential palace, where hundreds of Aoun supporters were killed. It then cleared out the last Aounist pockets, cementing its hold on the capital. Aoun fled to the French Embassy in Beirut, and later into exile in Paris. He was not able to return until May 2005.

William Harris claims that the Syrian operation could not take place until Syria had reached an agreement with the United States, that in exchange for support against the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War, it would convince Israel not to attack Syrian aircraft approaching Beirut. Aoun claimed in 1990 that the United States “has sold Lebanon to Syria”.[54]

End of the war

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

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

The post-war occupation of the country by Syria was particularly politically disadvantageous to the Maronite population as most of their leadership was driven intoexile, or had been assassinated or jailed.[55]

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 theMarch 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.


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,[56] 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.

After year 1990, Lebanon has undergone a thorough 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.[57] Lebanese victims of kidnapping and wartime “disappeared” number in the tens of thousands [58]

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.[59]

Depictions in the arts and music

  • The Argentinean rock/new wave band GIT wrote and recorded a song, in 1986, called “Buenas noches, Beirut” (Good night, Beirut), about the Lebanese Civil War, include on their third eponymous studio album.
  • Out of Life by Maroun Baghdadi, from 1991, was awarded the Jury Prize at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.[60]
  • In 2009, Saleh Barakat curated “The Road to Peace” exhibition at Beirut Art Center.[61] The exhibition featured paintings, photographs, drawings, prints and sculptures by Lebanese artists during the war. Its title comes from a series of prints byAref Rayess that depict Lebanese survivors of war.[62]
  • Waltz with Bashir, a movie from 2008 that deals with the 1982 Israeli intervention and the Sabra and Shatila massacre.
  • The 2010 Canadian film Incendies depicts the civil war and its aftermath. It is partly based on incidents in the life of the Lebanese writer Souha Bechara.
  • 1995 children’s book, From Far Away by Robert Munsch is based on a true story of a family of asylum seekers to Canada, from the perspective of a girl who does not speak English and is unfamiliar with Western culture and customs, although the conflict is not specifically indicated, it’s heavily implied.

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