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News from Lebanon, 1978

Lebanon's already slow recovery from the civil war of 1975-77 was interrupted by an Israeli invasion of the southern part of the nation in March and heavy fighting between the Syrian-backed Arab Deterrent Force (ADF) and Lebanese rightists in September-October.

Israel launched a full-scale invasion, complete with tanks and air cover, of southern Lebanon on the night of March 14. Israeli troops immediately occupied an 8-mile-wide strip of territory from the coast to the Mt. Hermon foothills, and from March 19 they advanced to occupy all of southern Lebeanon up to the Litani River except for an enclave around Tyre. Red Cross estimates said about 1,000 people were killed in the fighting and that 80%of the villages in the south had been damaged. Some 200,000 Lebanese and 65,000 Palestinians fled northward, creating a serious refugee problem in Sidon and Beirut. Israeli troops began withdrawing soon after the arrival of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), and were completely out of Lebanese territory by mid-June.

A family flees Beirut in the trunk of a car following bombardment by the Israeli Air Force in May.
Lebanese refugees

UN peacekeeping forces move into a village in southern Lebanon.
UN peacekeepers in Lebanon

On April 19 Prime Minister Selim al-Hoss resigned to make way for a new Cabinet. The failure of the various political factions to agree led to his reappointment on April 28, and on May 15 the same government resumed office. Lebanese politicians were, however, able to agree long enough to issue a joint declaration calling for "an end to all Palestinian and non-Palestinian armed action inside Lebanon."

In May and June the Lebanese Christians were weakened by a deep split between Falangists, concentrated mainly around Mt. Lebanon, and supporters of ex-President Franjieh, who had reconciled with Tripoli Muslim leader Rashid Karami, in the north. The conflict culminated in the deaths of Franjieh's son Tony and his family under Falangist shellfire on June 13. Although Falangist leaders denied ordering the attack, Franjieh supporters retaliated by massacring 22 Falangist supporters in Bekaa villages on June 28.

In support of Franjieh, Syrian forces bombarded Christian East Beirut in the first week of July.

President Elias Sarkis threatened to resign on July 6, but withdrew his threat on July 15 under strong pressure both at home and from abroad.

Syrian forces resumed their shelling of Beirut on August 5, and continued their bombardment until Syrian President Hafez al-Assad ordered a cease-fire on August 9. The shelling was resumed with increasing intensity at the end of September. As the situation worsened, Arab foreign ministers held an emergency meeting at Beit Eddine, south of Beirut. On October 17 they announced a peace plan involving the withdrawal of Syrian troops a few hundred yards from the perimeter of East Beirut and their replacement with non-Syrian Arab forces. That plan was successfully carried out, although Syria refused to withdraw its troops completely from Lebanon and sporadic fighting continued to occur through the rest of the year.

Heavy Syrian bombardment turned downtown Beirut into smoking, charred rubble during fighting in October.
downtown Beirut following Syrian bombardment

In the Year 1978
Rashid Karami

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The Robinson Library >> General and Old World History >> Asia >> Lebanon

This page was last updated on 09/27/2017.