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Lebanon's Sunnis and the Civil War
Lebanon's Sunnis and the Civil War
Published by Watser?
Tablet Civil War and Foreign Interference

Civil War and Foreign Interference

Many foreign powers have interfered in Lebanese affairs. This interference varied from financial support to one of the parties (Palestinian or Lebanese) to military incursions. The two neighbouring countries, Syria and Israel, were the most active but other Arab and non-Arab powers interfered also. The Lebanese patron-client system and the open society made this easy. Some qabadayat were clients of Palestinian organisations or foreign powers. The two wings of the Baath Party were ruled from Damascus and Baghdad. Feuds between Arab states were fought in Lebanon.40

The Palestinians

The Palestinians were a special case. Strictly speaking they were a foreign power; however, the Palestinian presence had become part of Lebanon, just like that of the Armenians and the Kurds. The difference with these ethnic groups is that the Palestinians had armed organisations. These have played a major part in the Lebanese Civil War, not only as independent powers, but also as instruments of Arab states. This chapter will focus on the Palestinians. First I will take a look at how many Palestinians lived in Lebanon and give an overview of the most important Palestinian organisations. Then I will discuss the civil war until 1983 – that is until the military defeat of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), followed by a survey of the role of the Palestinians, Syria, Israel and the other foreign powers.


It is hard to be sure about the number of Palestinians that lived in Lebanon. In the tables below I have provided the numbers as far as they are known to me. Only Palestinians receiving aid from UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Work Agency) are registered. These are not absolute numbers: only some of the Palestinians were given aid and were therefore registered. For 1970 there are only estimates, a low estimate by the Lebanese Ministry of Planning and a high estimate by the PLO. The number of Palestinians living in refugee camps in 1970 is also based on a PLO estimate. The estimates for 1980 are both based on UNWRA-numbers with the naturalised Palestinians (both estimates number them as 100,000) and unregistered Palestinians added. The estimates for the latter category are varying. The high estimates are from the Lebanese Front (LF, an umbrella group of the right-wing Maronite groups). The low estimates are figures from international aid groups. The high estimates from 1982 are from the PLO, the low estimates by the US State Department.41

  1970 1972 1978 1980 1982
High240,000  600,000600,000
Low 234,000 430,000 400,000
UNWRA 184,043 211,902 226,554
In camps 130,500 95,372 91,722 111,354
Outside camps 88,671 120,180 115,200

The estimates by the LF are probably exaggerated to make the ‘Palestinian Menace’ look worse. The PLO is probably also inclined to exaggerate the numbers to make their constituency look bigger. The Americans will be trying to make the PLO’s constituency look smaller. Taking the average of the numbers, I estimate there were about 237,000 Palestinians in 1970 and about 500,000 in 1980. The total population of Lebanon, including foreigners was estimated at 2,690,376 in 1970 and at least 2.8 million in 1980 of which 542,000 were foreigners and at most 3.3 million including 897,000 foreigners.42 That means that the number of Palestinians as a percentage of the total population was 8.8% in 1970. In 1980 this was at least 10.3% and at most 18.2%.

The fact that the percentage rose so dramatically is due to the increase in the number of Palestinians and the decrease in the number of Lebanese (mostly because of emigration). The increase in the number of Palestinians is connected to the ousting of the Palestinian guerrillas from Jordan in September of 1970 (Black September, see below).


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curses (08-02-2008), Sophia (01-22-2011), Stormlight (08-01-2008)
By Watser? on 12-27-2010, 12:10 AM
News Re: Lebanon's Sunnis and the Civil War

Here's a story from the Lebanese press about one former member of Tawhid who was murdered Saturday in the Palestinian camp Ain al Hilweh, near Sidon.
Located on the outskirts of the coastal city of Sidon, Ain al-Hilweh, like most other Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, does not fall under the control of the Lebanese government but under that of local Palestinian armed factions.

The camp saw normal activity Sunday morning, one day after the body of Ghandi Sahmarani, a member in the disbanded Jund al-Sham Islamist group was found.

Security sources said that Sahmarani, who is a Lebanese citizen wanted by Lebanese authorities, was found hand cuffed, leg cuffed and struck by a sharp device on the head. Sahmarani who hasn’t shown up for a long time, used to live in the Taamir neighborhood, which lies to the north of the camp, and which is considered a stronghold for Salafi Islamists. The area falls under the influence of Osbat al-Ansar, an Islamist group.

The fugitive was a member of Al-Tawhid al-Islami movement in the 1980’s, during which he participated in the fierce battles that broke out between the movement and the Syrian Army in Tripoli. He left Tripoli in 1987 and moved to Sidon where he joined a number of fundamentalist movements including Osbat al-Ansar and Jund al-Sham. After the disbandment of Jund al-Sham, Sahmarani joined Fatah al-Islam.

Sahmarani reportedly sheltered a number of Islamists who fled the northern Dinnieh district after taking part in the clashes that erupted between their comrades and the Lebanese Army in the district in 2000.

As a member of Jund al-Sham, the group fought the Lebanese Army several times. Armed clashes broke out between the two around Ain al-Hilweh in 2007, when the army was fighting Fatah al-Islam in the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared.
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By Watser? on 10-28-2014, 01:10 PM
Default Re: Lebanon's Sunnis and the Civil War

"The army has taken over Bab al-Tebbaneh," said the spokesman, adding that troops had captured 162 fighters since Friday.

The army urged other fighters still at large to turn themselves in.

The soldiers carried out house-to-house searches and made several weapons seizures.

A 72-year-old woman said she had never before been forced out of Bab al-Tebbaneh, "not even during the civil war. But this time, I had to flee my house, along with my five grandchildren. I am in charge of them, because their father is in jail", said Umm Mohammed Jaaburi. "The violence was unprecedented," she said.
Lebanon army back in control of Tripoli
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By Watser? on 10-30-2014, 02:36 PM
Default Re: Lebanon's Sunnis and the Civil War

No two people would disagree about the outcome of the most recent round of clashes in Tripoli. The army was able to defeat the gunmen. The outcome is unambiguous, at least in terms of appearances. The Lebanese army succeeded in driving the gunmen underground and removed all signs of their former existence. It set up checkpoints and carried out raids in areas that were forbidden to it in the past even if it cost the lives of 12 officers and soldiers, while there were no heavy casualties among the gunmen.
Jihadi groups in north Lebanon admit to defeat in battle against the army | Al Akhbar English
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