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Lebanon

OVERVIEW

Recent discoveries have proven Beirut to be the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, a record previously held by Damascus, Syria. In fact, modern archaeological excavations have also asserted Lebanon's continuous role as an important cultural and commercial center for centuries.

- HISTORICAL SETTING

The area now known as Lebanon first appeared in recorded history as a group of coastal cities and a heavily forested land named Phoenicia. Although archaeologists have unearthed evidence that Lebanon has been inhabited since the Stone Age, little is known of those cultures. However, much is known about the Canaanites, Semitic traders, whom the Greeks called "Phoenicians" because of the purple (phoinikies) dye they sold, and whose culture flourished there for more than 2,000 years.

From the ancient Phoenicians to the modern Arabs, Lebanon's strategic location and diverse geography has allowed numerous cultures to exist and flourish. The words that follow are a very brief summary of Lebanon's rich history, starting with the Phoenicians

ANCIENT TIMES

The Phoenicians, 2700-450 B.C.

Because of their geographic location, at the intersection of land and sea routes linking the ancient world, the Phoenicians turned to the sea, where they engaged in trade and navigation and made Lebanon famous as a commercial center.

Each of the coastal cities was an independent kingdom noted for the special activities of its inhabitants. Tyre and Sidon were important maritime and trade centers; Gubla (later known as Byblos and now as Jbeil) and Berytus (know as Beirut) were trade and religious centers.

The Phoenicians traded mostly fine cedar wood, pine, fruit, olive oil, wine, salt, glass and handicrafts for silver, gold, tin, copper, linen, papyrus, ivory, ebony, silk, amber, spices, incense, horses, and other goods from other Mediterranean civilizations especially from the Nile Valley.

Cedar was very important in the ancient Middle East, which had little wood. The fragrant cedar was much prized. The Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun had furniture in his tomb made of Phoenician cedar. In fact, it is their indiscriminate chopping down of Lebanese cedars that has lead us today to the tree's scarcity.

The Phoenicians were also famous for their purple dye, extracted from the shells of mollusks, which has become known on the world market as Tyrian Purple. At that time, purple became the color of royalty.

Needing some way to keep track of their commerce, the Phoenicians developed a written alphabet, which the Greeks later adapted for their language and which in some ways shaped the English alphabet.

The Phoenicians also discovered and used the North Star while sailing in sea and were the first ones to sail around Africa. They colonized parts of Cyprus and Rhodes and crossed the Black Sea. They founded Tarshish on the coast of Spain and Cartage in North Africa.

The merchant city-states had a long history of trade with the great ancient empire of Egypt, until the end of the seventeenth century B.C., when the Hyksos, a nomadic Semitic people, conquered Egypt. For about three decades (1600-1570 B.C.), Lebanese Egyptian relations were interrupted.

Under Hyksos reign, Ahmose I (1570-45 B.C.), a Theban prince, launched the Egyptian liberation war.

Opposition to the Hyksos increased, and the pharaoh Thutmose III (1490-36 B.C.) put an end to Hyksos domination by invading Lebanon and Syria, adding them to the Egyptian Empire.

By the beginning of the twelfth century B.C. Lebanon was able to regain its independence and enjoyed three centuries of prosperity and freedom from foreign control until the invasion of the coastal areas by the Assyrians.

Assyrian Rule, 875-608 B.C.

During the Assyrian rule, Phoenician cities brought repeated, unsuccessful rebellions. The Assyrian ruler, Tiglath-Pileser, restrained the rebels and imposed heavy tributes. Sargon II (722-05 B.C.) successfully besieged the city in 722 B.C. and punished its population. Sidon was completely destroyed and its inhabitants were enslaved.

By the end of the seventh century B.C., after the fierce Assyrians came the Babylonian (685-36 B.C.).

Babylonian Rule and the Persian Empire, 685-36 B.C.

Under Babylonian rule in the Phoenician revolts became more frequent. Tyre resisted for thirteen years a siege by the troops of Nebuchadnezzar (587-74 B.C.). After this long siege, the city capitulated; its king was dethroned, and its citizens were enslaved.

The Achaemenids ended Babylonian rule with the rise of the Persian Empire (539-38 B.C.). Cambyses (529-22 B.C.), Cyrus's son and successor, continued his father's conquest and in 529 B.C. ruled over Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt.

The Phoenician supported Persia during the Greco-Persian War (490-49 B.C.) with their sailing skills. But when heavy tributes were imposed by the successors of Darius I (521-485 B.C.), the Phoenicians revolts and rebellions resumed in the Lebanese coastal cities

Rule of Alexander the Great

Then came a young Macedonian named Alexander the Great. He attacked and defeated the Persian troops in 333 B.C., and advanced toward the Lebanese coast.

Initially the Phoenician cities made no attempt to resist until Alexander tried to offer a sacrifice to Melkurt, Tyre's god. In response to the city resistance, Alexander captured and besieged Tyre in retaliation in early 332 B.C. After an eight-month siege, the city fell and almost all its inhabitants were sold as slaves.

After Alexander's early death in 323 B.C., his empire - the entire ancient civilized world - was split among his generals. These generals launched competitions where Phoenicia became a prize in the course of their ambitious efforts to share Phoenician prosperity. A final victory of the Seleucids ended a forty-year period of conflict.

When the Seleucid dynasty fell to the Armenians, the rising empire of Rome stepped in and restored Seleucid control.

THE ROMAN AND THE BYZANTINE EMPIRES

The Seleucid Dynasty

Disorder and dynastic struggles marked the last century of Seleucid rule. When the Seleucids fell into anarchy in 50 AD, Rome assumed direct control. Rome incorporated Phoenicia as part of Syria. The Roman invasion triggered the beginning of a successful era for the region, making Lebanon an intellectual and religious center.

In Baalbek, temples were constructed in memory of roman gods. The Roman emperor Augustus granted the obscure city of Berytus (Beirut) Roman colonial status and Herod the Great financed building projects there as well as paved roads that linked the cities.

Beirut saw the rise of a prestigious school of law. Two of Rome's most famous jurists, Papinian and Ulpian, were natives of Lebanon. Berytus' importance in Rome lasted until a series of earthquakes, a tidal wave, and fire in the mid-6th century destroyed it, killing nearly 30,000 inhabitants, and demolished the temples of Baalbek

During Roman rule, the Phoenician language died out and was replaced by Aramai. The Phoenician identity slowly faded away and was replaced by Roman culture and architecture. The inhabitants of the principal Phoenician cities of Byblos, Sidon, and Tyre were granted Roman citizenship. Greek became the language of literature. Important Lebanese writers included Philo of Byblos, Porphyry of Tyre and Lamblichus of Chalcis.

At around the first century AD, Christianity emerged from the region of Palestine. Lebanon, being under Roman control, did not incorporate this new religion until the emperor Constantine established it as an official religion in AD 324. Religious conflicts produced disorder and confusion, making it easy prey to the newly converted Muslim Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula. The rule of the Roman Empire lasted up until the 630s, when the Arabs, inspired by the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, conquered Palestine and Lebanon to convert them to the new religion of Islam.

MEDIEVAL LEBANON

The Arab Conquest, 634-36

The Muslim Arabs invaded the eastern Mediterranean cities to establish their religious and civil control because of economic need and religious beliefs. Calling for a jihad (holy war) against non-Muslims, the Prophet's successor, Caliph Abu Bakr, brought Islam to the area surrounding Lebanon. The old Phoenician cities hardly offered any resistance to this new conqueror.

The Umayyads, 660-750

The first Muslim dynasty to control Lebanon, the Umayyeds know known as Sunni, used the Byzantine system and allowed local rulers to keep their status. They also established a strong navy, taking advantage of the region's superior shipbuilding skills.

Muawiyah, founder of the Umayyad dynasty and governor of Syria, an area that included present-day Lebanon, gathered his troops on the Lebanese coast and constructed a navy to resist any potential Byzantine attack. In order to stop raids by the Marada, powerful people settled in the Lebanese mountains by the Byzantine rulers to protect their Empire, Muawiyah negotiated an agreement in 667 with Constantine IV, the Byzantine emperor, whereby he agreed to pay Constantine an annual tribute.

The Abbasids, 750-1058

After the Umayyeds, the Abbasids founded by the Arab Abul Abbas, took control in early 750. They treated Lebanon and Syria as conquered countries, and made Arabic the official language of the empire, which even the Lebanese Christians began using. The economy significantly grew under this dynasty's rule, and Lebanon once again prospered both economically and as an intellectual center thus making contributions to the fields of medicine, law, and the arts. Still the harshness of the rulers led to several revolts, including an abortive rebellion of Lebanese mountaineers in 759.

During this period Lebanon became a refuge for various ethnic and religious groups. The ancestors of the present-day Maronites were among the Christian communities that settled in Lebanon during this period. To avoid feuds with other Christian sects in the area, these followers of Saint John Maroun moved from the upper valley of the Orontes River and settled in the picturesque Qadisha Valley, located in the northern Lebanon Mountains. Most Lebanese Christians are members of the Maronite Church, founded by St. Maroun of Syria. The church follows the Roman Catholic religion but has its own priests. Another religious faith found sanctuary in Lebanon. After Al Hakim (996-1021), the Fatimid caliph of Egypt, his followers became known in Lebanon as Druzes. In general, Arab rulers were tolerant of Christians and Jews, both of whom were assessed special taxes and were exempted from military service.

The Crusades, 1095-1291

The occupation of the Christian holy places in Palestine and the destruction of the Holy Sepulcher by Caliph Al Hakim led to a series of eight campaigns, known as the Crusades, undertaken by Christians of western Europe to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims in 1095.

During this time of strong Muslim leadership, Lebanon's mountains were a refuge for Christians. When the western crusaders came they captured the Lebanese mountains and established several strongholds there and used it as a "base" to lead attacks into Muslim-occupied Jerusalem After taking Jerusalem, the Crusaders turned their attention to the Lebanese coast. Tripoli capitulated in 1109, Beirut and Sidon, in 1110. Tyre stubbornly resisted but finally capitulated in 1124 after a long siege.

The Mamluks, 1282-1516

The Mamluks were slaves were brought in by the Muslim Ayyubid sultans of Egypt to serve as their bodyguards. In 1287, the Mamluks, who ended up conquering their masters, defeated the Christians and took control of Lebanon. Their realm also included Syria and they ruled until the beginning of the 1500s.

In 1291, the Shia Muslims and the Druzes rebelled while the Mamluks were busy fighting European Crusaders and Mongols, but after repelling the invaders, the Mamluks crushed the rebellion in 1308. Despite religious conflicts among the different communities in Lebanon, intellectual life flourished, and economic prosperity continued until the Ottoman Turks ended Mamluk rule.

THE OTTOMAN PERIOD

Ottoman rule, 1516-1916

In 1517, the Ottoman Turks, a Central Asian people who had served as slaves and warriors under the Abbasids, invaded the region after defeating the Persians, and replaced the Mamluks.

The Ottomans didn't interfere much with Lebanon during their empire, content to let the local Maan and the Chehab Druze feudal families rule the country. This caused many outbreaks of violence between the Maronite Christians and the Druze, which ended up into a small civil war in 1860,

It was during Ottoman rule that the term Greater Syria was used to approximate the area including in present-day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel.

The Maans, 1120-1697

The Maan family, under orders from the governor of Damascus, came to Lebanon in 1120 and settled on the southwestern slopes of the Lebanon Mountains and soon adopted the Druze religion. Under Fakhr al-Din, who began his reign in 1593 and who was permitted by Ottoman authorities to organize his own army, the Maans unified Lebanon's religious groups and encouraged stronger ties with Europe.

Fakhr al Din attempted to merge the country's different religious groups into one Lebanese community in an effort to attain complete independence for Lebanon; this led him to exile in 1613. He returned to Lebanon in 1618, after Muhammad Pasha became governor of Damascus.

Following his return he channeled his financial resources into building a regular army. This move helped him defend Lebanonís strategic position for a while but he was defeated after many unsuccessful Turkish attacks, and was executed in Constantinople in 1635

The Chehabs, 1697-1842

The Ottomans then turned over the governing of Lebanon to the Chehabs, in 1697. The Chehabs originally lived in the Hawran region of southwestern Syria and settled in Wadi at Taim in southern Lebanon.

But Bashir Chehab II, who was much like his predecessor, Fakhr ad Din II allied himself with Egyptian leader Muhammad Ali Pasha, the founder of modern Egypt, who kicked the Ottomans out of Lebanon in 1831. The Egyptian army, with assistance from Bashir's troops also attacked and conquered Damascus on June 14, 1832.

However, Ibrahim Pasha and Bashir II at first ruled harshly and exacted high taxes. These practices led to several revolts and eventually ended their power. In 1840, the Ottomans and British exiled Bashir Chehab II.

On September 3, 1840, Bashir III was appointed amir of Mount Lebanon by the Ottoman sultan. Bitter conflicts between Christians and Druzes, which had been simmering under Ibrahim Pasha's rule, resurfaced under the new amir. As a way to kill independence movements, the Ottomans encouraged the Christians and Druze to distrust and hate one another.

Hence, the sultan deposed Bashir III on January 13, 1842, and appointed Umar Pasha as governor of Mount Lebanon. This appointment, however, created more problems than it solved.

Representatives of the European powers proposed to the sultan to partition Lebanon into Christian and Druze sections. On December 7, 1842, the sultan adopted the proposal and asked Assad Pasha, the governor (wali) of Beirut, to divide the region, then known as Mount Lebanon, into two districts: a northern district under a Christian deputy governor and a southern district under a Druze deputy governor. This partition of Lebanon proved to be a mistake. Animosities between the religious sects increased nurtured by outside powers.

In 1860 the Druze massacred the Maronites. The French intervened on behalf of the Maronites. Then the Ottomans, with European help, installed a Christian governor appointed by the Ottoman sultan in 1861. This lasted until World War I, when the Ottomans took direct control of Lebanon for the first time since they conquered it.

WORLD WAR I AND THE FRENCH MANDATE, 1914-41

World War I

The outbreak of World War I in August 1914 brought Lebanon further problems, as the Ottoman Empire joined forces with the Germans and Austria-Hungary in battling the Allied Forces of England, France and later, the United States. The Turkish government abolished Lebanon's semiautonomous status and Jamal Pasha, the commander in chief of the Turkish forces in Syria known for his harshness, militarily occupied Lebanon with unrestricted powers.

In February 1915, frustrated by his unsuccessful attack on the British forces, Jamal Pasha started a blockade of the entire eastern Mediterranean coast to prevent supplies from reaching his enemies and indirectly caused famine and disease taking many lives. The blockade deprived the country of its primary income source tourism, and delayed for months all kind of help from relatives and friends living abroad.

In May 6 1916, now know as Martyrs' Day, Turkish authorities publicly executed twenty-one Syrians and Lebanese in Damascus and Beirut, respectively, for suspected anti-Turkish activities. The date is commemorated annually in both countries and the site in Beirut has come to be known as Martyrs' Square.

In September 1918, the British general Edmund Allenby and Faysal I, son of Sharif Hussein of Mecca, moved into Palestine with British and Arab forces, thus opening the way for the occupation of Syria and Lebanon.

At the San Remo Conference held in Italy in April 1920, the French were given a mandate to govern Lebanon. France then appointed General Henri Gouraud to implement the mandate provisions. Under the French, Lebanon prospered again, and its infrastructure modernized.

The Mandate Period

At the end of World War I, in 1923, and following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the League of Nations (now known as the United Nations) put Lebanon and Syria under French military occupation.

On September 11920, General Gouraud proclaimed the establishment of Greater Lebanon with its present boundaries and with Beirut as its capital. Thus dividing, what had previously been a single political unit in the Ottoman Empire, into separate colonial administrations drawing a border that separated predominantly Muslim Syria from the kaleidoscope of religious communities in Lebanon where Maronite Christians were at that time dominant. The Maronite Christians, pro-French by tradition, welcomed this development.

However, the redefinition of Lebanon changed the demographic makeup of the country. Muslims and Christians were about equally divided, and many residents didn't want to be ruled by France or to be independent. They wanted to be part of a larger Syrian or Arab country.

 

The first Lebanese constitution went into effect on May 23, 1926; and subsequently amended several times; it was still in effect as of late 1987. To ease tensions, the constitution provided that the president would normally be a Maronite, elected by the Chamber of Deputies for one six-year term and could not be reelected until a six-year period had elapsed; the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of the chamber a Shiite Muslim.

Under the Constitution, the French high commissioner still exercised supreme power, an arrangement that initially brought objections from the Lebanese nationalists. Nevertheless, Charles Dabbas was elected the first president of Lebanon three days after the adoption of the Constitution.

At the end of Dabbas's first term in 1932, Bechara al Khoury and Emile Edde competed for the office of president, thus dividing the Chamber of Deputies. To break the deadlock, Sheikh Muhammad al Jisr was suggested but Henri Ponsot, the French high commissioner suspended the constitution on May 9, 1932, and extended the term of Dabbas for one year; to prevented the election of a Muslim as president

On January 30 1936, Emile Edde was elected president. A year later, he partially reestablished the Constitution of 1926 and proceeded to hold elections for the Chamber of Deputies. However, the French high commissioner again suspended the Constitution in September 1939, at the outbreak of World War II.

WORLD WAR II AND INDEPENDENCE

World War II

Under French rule, education, public utilities and communication improved. As the middle class of Beirut grew, so did desire for more independence. France started having troubles at home when its neighbor Germany slipped into the rule of the Nazis.

After the Vichy government assumed power in France in 1940, General Henri-Fernand Dentz was appointed high commissioner of Lebanon. This appointment led to the resignation of Emile Edde on April 4, 1941. Five days later, Dentz appointed Alfred Naccache as head of state. The Vichy government proclaimed Lebanon and Syria independent, because their own status was so precarious, but the Free French continued to occupy Lebanon.

Lebanese Independence,

The Vichy government's control ended a few months later when its forces were unable to repel the advance of French and British troops into Lebanon and Syria. After signing the Acre Armistice, on July 14 1941, General Charles de Gaulle visited Lebanon, officially ending Vichy control. Lebanese national leaders took the opportunity to ask de Gaulle to end the French Mandate and unconditionally recognize Lebanon's independence

On November 26, 1941, General Georges Catroux, delegate general under de Gaulle, proclaimed the independence of Lebanon in the name of his government. Many countries recognized this independence, and some even exchanged ambassadors with Beirut.

However, even though the French technically recognized Lebanon's independence, they continued to exercise authority.

INDEPENDENT LEBANON, 1943-76

The Khoury Era, 1943-52

On September 21, 1943, Bechara al Khoury was elected president, Riyad Solh appointed prime minister. On November 8, 1943, the Chamber of Deputies amended the Constitution, abolishing the articles that referred to the French Mandate along with the powers of the high commissioner, thus effectively ending the Mandate. The French authorities responded by arresting a number of prominent Lebanese politicians, including the president, the Prime Minister, and other cabinet members, and exiling them to the Castle of Rashayya. This action united the Lebanese leaders in their determination to get rid of the French. As a result of national and international pressure, France finally released the prisoners at Rashayya on November 22 1943. Since then, this day has been celebrated as Independence Day.

After 20 years of the French mandate regime, Lebanon gained partial independence from France. Under an agreement between representatives of Lebanon and the French National Committee of Liberation, most of the powers exercised by France were transferred to the Lebanese government on Jan. 1, 1944. Lebanon became a member of the League of Arab States (Arab League) on March 22, 1945. It also participated in the San Francisco Conference of the United Nations (UN) and became a member in 1945. The evacuation of French troops was not complete until they were withdrawn on December 31, 1946, with the signing of the Franco-Lebanese Treaty.

In 1949, Bechara al Khoury, was reelected for a second term. In 1948, the newly formed United Nations voted in favor of making Palestine as a homeland for the Jews. As soon as the creation of Israel was announced, a war broke out with its Arab neighbors and Palestinians fled the country, settling as refugees in Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon

In June 1952, nine deputies led by Kamal Jumblat, head of the Progressive Socialist Party; Camille Chamoun, Emile Bustani, and other personalities formed an organization called the Social National Front (SNF). This front dedicated itself to radical reform, demanding that the authorities end sectarianism and eradicate all abuses in the governmental system.

On May 17, 1952, the front held a meeting at Dayr al Qamar. About 50,000 people attended the meeting. The speakers criticized the regime and threatened rebellion if the president did not resign.

In July 23 the Phalange Party, led by Pierre Gemayel, also declared its dissatisfaction with the regime.

On September 11, the SNF called for a general strike to force the president to resign. President Khoury appealed to General Fuad Chehab the commander of the army, to end the strike. However, Chehab refused to become involved in what he considered a political matter, and on September 18, Khoury finally resigned.

The Chamoun Era, 1952-58

On September 23, 1952, the Chamber of Deputies elected Camille Chamoun to succeed Khoury. In the spring of 1953, relations between President Chamoun and Jumblat deteriorated. The balance between religious communities was precariously maintained, and hostility was obvious.

The Muslim community rebelled against the regime where Christians, claiming their numerical superiority, occupied the highest positions in the state, and asked for a census, which they were confident would prove their numerical superiority. The Christians refused unless the census was to include Lebanese emigrants who were mainly Christians and contributing in 80 percent of the revenue. There was general unrest in Lebanon following the Suez Canal crisis and the political struggles between Lebanese political leaders.

Civil war broke out in 1958, with Muslim groups led by Kamal Jumblat and Saeb Salam rising in insurrection against the Lebanese government. At Chamoun's request, President Eisenhower on July 15 sent U.S. troops to reestablish the government's authority.

At the end of the crisis, the Chamber of Deputies elected General Fuad Chehab, then commander in chief of the Lebanese Army, to serve as president.

The Rise of Chehabism, 1958-64

President Chehab enjoyed considerable support from the various political factions. He instituted electoral reform and increased the membership of the Chamber of Deputies from sixty-six to ninety-nine. He was determined to have the government serve Christian and Muslim groups equally. Chehab also concentrated on improving Lebanon's infrastructure, developing an extensive road system, and providing running water and electricity to remote villages. Hospitals and dispensaries were built in many rural areas.

In September 27 1958, Chehab asked the United Statesí Troops to withdraw from Lebanon.

The Helou Era, 1964-70

In August 18 1964, Charles Helou, a journalist, jurist, and diplomat, who was known for his high moral and intellectual qualities, succeeded Chehab.

The most significant impact of the Arab Israeli June 1967 War, on all aspects of Lebanese life, was the increased role of Palestinian guerrilla groups in the struggle against Israel. The Palestinians, with the consent of the Arab League, were allowed to use Lebanon as a base for guerrilla attacks into northern Israel.

Starting December 28 1968, after Israel launched a raid on Beirut International Airport, periodic clashes between the guerrillas and the Lebanese Army continued throughout the late spring, summer, and fall of 1969. In the late summer of 1969, several guerrilla groups moved to new bases, and Israel regularly raided these bases in retaliation for guerrilla raids on its territory. In October the Lebanese Army attacked some guerrilla camps in order to restrict their activity. On November 2, 1969, the Lebanese commander in chief and Yasir Arafat, the head of Al Fatah, the leading faction within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed in Cairo to a cease-fire.

To deal with the problems caused by the fighting in the south, a governmental committee was formed, and funds were allocated for Al Janub (South) Province. On January 12, 1970, the government announced a plan to arm and train Lebanese civilians in southern villages and to fortify the villages against Israeli raids.

On January 7 1970, General Jean Njaim suggested a government effort to take a harder position against the guerrillas and to defend southern Lebanon more actively. After several bloody clashes between the guerrillas and the Lebanese Army and a nationwide general strike in May 1970, the government approved additional funds for the defense of the south.

The Franjieh Era, 1970-76

In the summer of 1970, Suleiman Franjieh was elected president by one vote over Elias Sarkis, on August 17. Fanjieh was a leader from northern Lebanon with a private militia. He assumed office on September 23, 1970, and in the first few months of his term the general political atmosphere improved.

In late 1970 and 1971, as a result of severe clashes between the Jordanian army and the PLO, a large numbers of Palestinian guerrillas were expelled from Jordan and settled in the Lebanese camps the most suitable place for launching raids against Israel. However, Israel retaliated for any attack by guerrillas into Israeli territory and for any action anywhere against Israeli nationals. The army's inaction brought the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Saib Salam. In May armed clashes between the army and the guerrillas in Beirut spread to other parts of the country.

The Fanjieh government had to deal with rising tensions, and by the beginning of the Civil War in April 1975, political fragmentation was accelerating.

The Civil War,

The Beginning of the War 1975-76

During the several Arab-Israeli wars, Lebanon had tried to maintain a state of neutrality, which became threatened by the Palestinian attacks. As a result, the public opinion was split with the Muslims supporting the Palestinians and the Christians opposing them. This, along with many other political and sectarian factors, set the stage for the civil war, which erupted in April 1975.

The spark that started the war occurred in Beirut on April 13, 1975, when gunmen killed four Phalangists during an attempt on Pierre Gemayel's life. The Phalangists retaliated later that day by attacking a bus carrying Palestinian passengers across a Christian neighborhood, killing about twenty-six of the occupants.

Despite the urgent need to control the fighting, the political machinery of the government became paralyzed over the next few months because leaders were unable to agree on whether or not to use the army to stop the bloodletting. Consequently, in May Prime Minister Rashid al Solh and his cabinet resigned, and a new government was formed under Rashid Karami.

By the end of 1975, the political hierarchy still was incapable of maintaining peace, except for occasional, short-lived cease-fires. And, most threatening of all, the Lebanese Army, which till then had stayed out of the conflict, threatened to bring its heavy weaponry to the battlefield.

February 14, 1976 was considered a political breakthrough, where Syria helped negotiate a seventeen-point reform program known as the Constitutional Document. In March renegade Muslim troops, created the Lebanese Arab Army led by Lieutenant Ahmad Khatib. Joining the Lebanese National Movement, they made significant penetrations into Christian-held Beirut and launched an attack on the presidential palace, forcing Fanjieh to flee to Mount Lebanon.

When president Franjieh's term expired in September, Elias Sarkis was elected to take over. In May 1976 Syria intervened militarily against the Lebanese National Movement, hoping to end the fighting swiftly. But the Syrian forces met heavy resistance and suffered many casualties.

In late July Syria decided to quell the resistance. A drive was launched against Lebanese National Movement a stronghold that was far more successful than earlier battles; within two weeks the opposition was almost subdued. Rather than crush the resistance altogether, at this time Syria chose to participate in an Arab peace conference held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 16, 1976.

The Riyadh Conference

In October 1976, the Riyadh Conference, followed by an Arab League meeting in Cairo, formally ended the Lebanese Civil War.

In January 1977 the Arab Deterrent Force established by the Arab League in October 1976,consisted of 30,000 men, of whom 27,000 were Syrian.

The civil war devastated Lebanon's infrastructure and 44,000 Lebanese estimated killed and 180,000 wounded between March 1975 and Nov. 1976. Many thousands of others were displaced or left homeless, or had migrated. Much of Beirut was reduced to ruins and the town divided into Muslim and Christian sectors, separated by the so-called Green Line.

The Sarkis Administration, 1976-82

In December 1976 Sarkis appointed as prime minister Salim al Hoss, who chose a cabinet of technocrats. By late 1977, however, as a result of the Egyptian-Israeli peace negotiations and Syria's consequent rapprochement with the PLO, Lebanese-Syrian relations cooled.

In February 1978, clashes occurred between the ADF and the Lebanese Army in East Beirut followed by a massive ADF bombardment of Christian sectors of Beirut in July. President Sarkis resigned in protest against the latter action but was persuaded to reconsider. Syrian bombardments of East Beirut ended in October 1978 as a result of a UN Security Council cease-fire resolution

The situation in the south became worse when the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) entered southern Lebanon in retaliation for a Palestinian guerrilla attack on an Israeli bus near Tel Aviv, in March 11 1978, where several people were killed. The IDF troops occupied positions as far north as the Litany River.

After three months of Israelis occupation, the UN Security Council created a 6,000-man peacekeeping force for the area, called UNIFIL. In June, the Israelis withdrew. As they departed, the Israelis turned their strong points over to a militia that they had organized, instead of to the UN force.

Syria threatened several times, in late 1978 and early 1979, to withdraw its forces from Lebanon. But in May 1979, Syria stated that the ADF - which by then had become a totally Syrian force - would "remain in Lebanon as long as the Arab interests so require."

Prime Minister Hoss remained in office for two more years. In October 1980, Shafiq al Wazzan, chairman of the Supreme Islamic Council, became Prime Minister. Clashes broke out in the south between Amal, the Shia military arm, and Fatah, a part of the PLO. July was marked by a victory of Bashir Gemayel and his Phalangist militia over the Tigers, the militia of the National Liberals under Camille Chamoun and his son Dani. This victory paved the way for Gemayel's popularity.

However, in late 1980 and April 1981 significant ADF action against the Phalange Party militia, headed by Bashir Gemayel, took place around Zahle. This military threat to its Christian ally caused Israel to intervene, and it shot down two Syrian helicopters over Lebanon. Syria, in turn, introduced SA-2 and SA-6 surface-to-air missiles into Lebanon, resulting in a "missile crisis" In July 1981, a cease-fire arranged by U.S. special representative Philip Habib, ended the Israeli-Palestinian fighting. The cease-fire was respected during the next 10 months.

In late 1981, Lebanon's security deteriorated significantly. Continuous clashes occurred in West Beirut, Tripoli, and southern Lebanon. In September automobile bombings against foreign diplomats occurred in West Beirut, Sidon, and Tripoli. In April 1982, attacks against Muslim and Christian religious leaders.

In the 1982 presidential campaign, the general discontent with the situation favored Bashir Gemayel. However, Bashir's close ties to Israel led to opposition from Assad and Arafat. This, then, was the situation in Lebanon when Israel invaded on June 6, 1982, in retaliation for the assassination attempt on the Israeli ambassador to London.

The 1982 Israeli Invasion

The second Israeli invasion came on June 6, 1982, and this time it was total. Despite the invasion, Bashir Gemayel was elected President in August. However, a bomb that destroyed the headquarters of the Christian Phalanges Party assassinated Bashir Gemayel on September 14. The next day, Israeli troops entered west Beirut in force. During the next three days, Lebanese militiamen massacred hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps but Israel denied responsibility. On September 20, Amin Gemayel, older brother of Bashir Gemayel, was elected president by a unanimous vote of the parliament. He took office September 23, 1982. MNF forces returned to Beirut at the end of September as a symbol of support for the government.

The massacre in the refugee camps prompted the return of a multinational peacekeeping force composed of U.S. Marines and British, French, and Italian soldiers. Their mandate was to support the central Lebanese government, but they soon found themselves drawn into the struggle for power between different Lebanese factions.

In February 1983, a small British contingent joined the U.S., French, and Italian MNF troops. During their stay in Lebanon, 260 U.S. Marines and about 60 French soldiers were killed, most of them in suicide bombings of the Marine and French army compound on Oct. 23, 1983.

President Gemayel and his government placed primary emphasis on the withdrawal of Israeli, Syrian, and Palestinian forces from Lebanon, and in late 1982, Lebanese-Israeli negotiations commenced with U.S. participation. The multinational force left in the spring of 1984.

The May 17 Accord

On May 17, 1983, the representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the United States signed an agreement, for Israeli withdrawal. Syria declined to discuss the withdrawal of its troops.

Opposition to the negotiations and to U.S. support for the Gemayel regime, led to a series of terrorist attacks in 1983 and 1984 including the bombing on April 18, 1983 of the U.S. embassy in west Beirut (63 dead), of the U.S. and French MNF headquarters in Beirut on October 23, 1983 (298 dead), and of the U.S. embassy annex in east Beirut on September 20, 1984 (8 killed).

When Israeli forces unilaterally withdrew from the Shuf at the beginning of September 1983, a battle exploded between the Druze, backed by Syria, and the Christian Lebanese Forces militia as well as the Lebanese army. U.S. and Saudi efforts led to a cease-fire on September 26. This left the Druze in control of most of the Shuf.

In February 1984, the Lebanese army practically collapsed, following the desertion of many of its units to opposition militias. On March 5 1984, Under increasing pressure from Syria the Lebanese Government announced that it was canceling its unimplemented agreement with Israel. The U.S. Marines left the same month.

Further national reconciliation talks at Lausanne failed. A new "government of national unity" under Prime Minister Rashid Karami was declared in April 1984 but made no significant progress.

The Tripartite Accord

In late 1985, Syria eager for a solution began to negotiate a "tripartite accord" on political reform among the leaders of various Lebanese factions.

However, Gemayel opposed the accord and Samir Jaja overthrew the leader of the LF, in January 1986.

Syria responded by inducing the Muslim government ministers to cease dealing with Gemayel, effectively paralyzing the government.

In July 1986, Syrian observers took position in Beirut to monitor a peacekeeping agreement. The agreement broke down and fighting between Shi'ite and Druze militia in West Beirut became so intense that Syrian troops moved in force in Feb. 1987, suppressing militia resistance.

On June 1, Prime Minister Karami was assassinated. Salim al-Hoss was appointed acting prime minister.

At the end of President Gemayel's term on September 23 1988, he appointed Army Commander General Michel Aoun as interim Prime Minister. Gemayel's acting Prime Minister, Salim al-Hoss, also continued to act as actual Prime Minister. Lebanon was divided between Muslim in west Beirut and Christian in east Beirut.

In February 1989, General Aoun attempted to close illegal ports run by the LF. This led to several days of intense fighting in east Beirut and an uneasy cease-fire between Aoun's army units and the LF. In March, an attempt by Aoun to close illegal militia ports in predominantly Muslim parts of the country led to a 6-month bombing of east Beirut by Muslim and Syrian forces and of west Beirut and the Shuf by the Christian units of the army and the LF.

Modern History

The Taif Accords

In January 1989, the Arab League appointed a six-member committee on Lebanon, led by the Kuwaiti foreign minister. In May, the Arab League assigned a higher committee to work toward a solution for Lebanon. The new committee was composed of Saudi King Fahd, Algerian President Bendjedid, and Moroccan King Hassan. In July 1989,the committee reported that its efforts had reached a "dead end". After further discussions, a meeting was arranged for Lebanese parliamentarians in Taif, Saudi Arabia.

After a month of intense discussions, the deputies informally agreed on what is known as the Taif agreement. Upon their return to Lebanon in November, where the deputies approved the Taif agreement on November 4, and elected Rene Moawad, a Maronite Christian from north Lebanon, President on November 5.

General Aoun did not accept the approval of the Taif agreement or the election of President Moawad. He issued a decree in early November dissolving the parliament. President Moawad was assassinated on November 22, 1989. On November 24 Elias Hraoui, a Maronite Christian deputy from Zahleh, was elected. President Hraoui named Salim al-Hoss as Prime Minister.

Despite international recognition of Hraoui and his government, General Aoun also refused to recognize Hraoui's legitimacy.

In late January 1990, General Aoun's forces attacked positions of the LF in east Beirut in an apparent attempt to eliminate the LF militia.

In August 1990, the National Assembly approved, and President Hraoui signed into law, constitutional amendments featuring the political reform aspects of the Taif agreement. These amendments gave some presidential powers to the council of ministers, expanded the National Assembly from 99 to 108 seats, and divided those seats equally between Christians and Muslims. In October 1990, a joint Lebanese-Syrian military operation against General Aoun forced him to capitulate and take refuge in the French embassy.

In November 1990, the seemingly endless civil war finally came to an end.

On December 24, 1990, Omar Karami was appointed Lebanon's Prime Minister.

In early 1991 the Lebanese government, backed by Syria, attempted to regain control over the south and disband all private militias, thereby ending the 16-year civil war.

Militias - with the exception of Hizbollah - were dissolved in May 1991 turning over ports, barracks, air bases, and many of their heavy weapons to the Lebanese Army.

In July 1991, the armed forces moved against armed Palestinian elements in Sidon.

In August 1991, the release of eastern and western hostages began. General Aoun remained in the French embassy until August 27, 1991 then left Lebanon safely and took up residence in exile in France.

In October 1991, under the sponsorship of the United States and the Soviet Union, the Middle East peace talks were convened in Madrid, Spain. This was the first time that Israel and its Arab neighbors had direct mutual negotiations to seek peace in the Middle East

The end of 1991 and the beginning of 1992 , was marked by economic instability and the collapse of the Lebanese pound,

The Election 1992

The social, economic and political crisis led to Prime Minister Omar Karami's resignation May 6, 1992. Former Prime Minister Rashid al Solh, replaced him. In August 1992, elections for a new Chamber of 128 members were conducted.

Most Christians abstained from voting, demanding to have the elections postponed until after the departure of the Syrian forces promised for September. According to the Taif agreement, the Syrian and Lebanese Governments were to agree in September 1992 to the redeployment of Syrian troops from greater Beirut. That date passed without an agreement.

The elections went as scheduled without violence and the new legislature consisted of mostly pro-Syrian members.

Rebuilding Beirut,

In October 22, Rafiq al-Harir a self-made billionaire committed to the reconstruction of Lebanon was voted as Prime Minister. In early November 1992, Rafiq al-Hariri formed a new cabinet, retaining the finance portfolio for himself. SolidŤre, a state managed stock company was established to rebuild the market center of Beirut.

Relations between members of the cabinet have often been tense especially with Nabih Berri, the Shiite speaker of the house as well as with the president Hraoui. Hariri attempted to resign at least 3 times to get quick reaction on his projects.

Since Power of governmental structure has shifted from the president to the prime minister due to the Taif accord changes in the constitution, Hariri tried to push through the limits set by Hraoui. The later backed up by the Syrian was able to persuade Hariri to stay on.

Projects of repatriation of Christian villagers to the Druze areas of Metn and Shuf were directed under the supervision of Walid Jumblaat the traditional leader of the Druze. Many reconstruction and reconciliation projects were similarly conducted throughout the country.

With Hizbollah still armed in the south, attack and reprisal continued. In July 1993, the Israeli conducted a weeklong bombing of militia targets in the Bekaa after which both parties agreed that only military personnel were fair game. In December, the Phalange party headquarters was bombed.

In 1994 while Hizbollah attacks continued, the Israeli launched thirty-one air strikes into Lebanon. In February, bombs were detonated in a Maronite church in Jounieh.

In May 1995, concerns about the Hraouiís term ending November, began to arise and many claimed that it would be the end of security and stability. But in October 19, the Lebanese assembly agreed on the amendment that allows Elias Hraoui to continue in office for an additional three years.

Early in 1996, civilians were targeted in several incidents contradicting to the July 1993 agreement. In April an Israeli attack resulted in a Lebanese youth killed and several others wounded. Hizbollah response was bombing Kiryat Shemona, wounding Israeli civilians preceding several attacks on Israeli towns. Israeli troops retaliated with a massive air bombardment backed up with offshore naval vessels killing ninety-one civilian in who had fled to a UNIFIL camp near Tyre. After eighteen days of shelling, the US secretary state established a cease-fire on April 26.

In June 1999

On November 24th 1998, army comander General Emile Lahoud was elected as the 11th Lebanese President since Lebanon's independence in 1933. On 3rd of December 1998, Salim Hoss became Lebanon's new Prime Minister following Hariri's sudden resignation. Hoss is no stranger to politics, as this is the fifth time he holds the position of Prime Minister.

Just before Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu left office in June 1999, Israel bombed Southern Lebanon, its most severe attack on Lebanon since 1996. When Ehud Barak, was elected prime minister he promised to withdraw troops within a year and to make peace with Syria, which controls the guerrillas.

Now Beirutís mood has become more optimistic as it has been rebuilt and public order is better maintained than in the past but regular loses of property and lives still take place in the Bekaa and South.

 

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