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Lebanon's Sunnis and the Civil War
Lebanon's Sunnis and the Civil War
Published by Watser?
Tablet The Civil War until 1983

The Civil War until 1983

Although the Palestinian presence became the spark that set off the civil war, this was not the only cause. Another important cause was that the sectarian distribution agreed upon in the National Pact no longer corresponded to the real proportions between the religious groups (though it is far from clear it ever did). A third main cause was the huge social gap between rich and poor which was mainly a result of the neglect of the countryside. Other causes were the conflict between left and right, between Lebanese nationalism on the one hand and Syrian and Arab nationalism on the other and between sectarianism and secularism.

This section deals with the civil war until 1983. The reason for this is that what can be roughly described as the Muslim camp was dominated by the alliance between the leftist parties and the PLO. In 1982 Israel and then in 1983 Syria put an end to the military presence of the PLO. This meant that the leftist parties were weakened and their place was largely taken by sectarian and fundamentalist parties.

In the course of the war, coalitions of parties formed. These coalitions were instable however because different interests played a part. The Shi’ite militia Amal, for instance, supported the left-wing demands for a more equal distribution of power between Muslims and Christians but was a very strong opponent of the Palestinian presence. The right-wing Maronite militias on the other hand managed to build a very strong united front (by taking over rival militias by force and murdering their leaders).

At the end of February, 1975, a demonstration in Sidon ended in skirmishes with the army in which former member of parliament (and NM member), Maarouf Saad, who was one of the demonstrators was mortally injured. This lead to demonstrations in Beirut against the army and to further clashes in Sidon between armed civilians and the army; however, this time civil war was avoided.

On 13 April, 4 Maronites, including 2 Kataeb members and Kataeb leader Pierre Gemayel’s bodyguard, were killed in a drive-by. The same evening and at the same spot in Beirut a bus carrying Palestinians from Sabra to Tall az-Zaatar was ambushed. That night Beirut was at war and the next day fighting started in Sidon and Tripoli. At first the fighting was between the Kataeb on the one hand and the left-wing militias, supported by the Palestinian Rejection Front groups, as-Sa’iqa and the DFLP on the other hand. The fighting became more and more sectarian however as Christians started slaughtering Muslims at random and vice versa. Shady fascist splinter groups on the Christian side like the Guardians of the Cedar and at-Tanzim and fundamentalist splinter groups like al-Jamaa al-Islamiyya and Jundullah on the Muslim side were probably responsible for most of this. The rightist Maronite militias also started to attack left-wing enclaves inside their territory and driving the inhabitants out.61

In January of 1976, the Maronite militias started the siege of Tall az-Zaatar, a Palestinian camp in mostly Christian east Beirut. The result of this was that al-Fatah, which had kept out of the fighting so far, started siding with the National Movement.

The right-wing Maronites were united politically under the name Lebanese Front, with its military wing the Lebanes Forces. This united the Kataeb, an-Numur and the Marada Brigade as well as a few smaller groups (including the Guardians of the Cedar and at-Tanzim). The NM on the other hand had been weakened in December of 1975 when the pro-Syrian parties had formed their own front. The most important parties in that front were the pro-Syrian Baath and Amal.

In January, Qarantina, a Muslim slum in east Beirut was overrun by Maronite militias who started murdering and driving out the inhabitants. The next day, Damour, a Christian bastion of Chamoun’s was conquered by the NM. The inhabitants befell the same fate of those of Qarantine. Muslim officers of the Lebanese army who objected to the army’s defence of Damour proclaimed the Arab Army of Lebanon (AAL).

During a lull in the fighting in May, presidential elections were held. This was accompanied by a lot of intimidation by as-Sa’iqa which is why the pro-Syrian candidate Elias Sarkis was elected and inaugurated in September. After the elections, the NM, the AAL and the PLO (except as-Saiqa and the PLA’s Hittin brigade) started a major offensive. This was halted by the Syrians who intervened militarily from October of 1976.62 The Syrian intervention would be made official by the decision of the Arab League to send an Arab Deterrent Force (ADF) that was almost exclusively composed of Syrian forces with some token contributions from other Arab states. This was the start of a period of armed peace.

The struggle continued with bomb attacks and kidnappings and on 16 March 1977, Kamal Jumblatt was murdered. Although the assassins were never caught, it was widely suspected that Syria was behind it.63

There was not even so much as an armed peace for southern Lebanon in 1976. A war of attrition was going on there between Israel and its puppet militia headed by Saad Haddad on the one hand and the NM and the PLO (including as-Sa’iqa in this case) on the other hand. In 1978 Israel launched a major attack and occupied a strip between the coast and the Syrian border. The UN Security Council decided a UN-force called UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon) would take over their positions and form a buffer between the Israeli border and the Palestinian forces. Israel and SLA sabotaged this however and UNIFIL was forced to take up positions to the north between the PLO/NM fighters and Haddad’s militia.64 At the same time an alliance had been formed between the LF and Israel.

In the north there was a conflict between the Kataeb and the pro-Syrian Suleiman Frangieh who had quit the Lebanese Front. On 13 June 1978, his son and militia leader, Tony, his wife and their 3-year old daughter were murdered by the Kataeb at their home in Ehden while at the same time, 30 people were killed in Zghorta in a failed attempt to take over Frangieh’s territory.

The LF had succeeded however in banning the troops of the Arab Deterrent Force from their territory. This meant Lebanon was now divided into 4 parts: the part that was ruled by the LF, Haddad’s part, UNIFIL’s part, and the part occupied by Syria. In the LF-ruled part Chamoun’s militia and the other Christian militias had been forced to merge with the Lebanese Forces by the Kataeb. In the Syrian occupied part no militia was strong enough to force the others to comply. Clashes between militias erupted regularly. The dominant factor in this area was al-Fatah, except in the Shouf Mountains which were controlled by the Druze PSP. The Syrian presence mostly limited itself to checkpoints.

After UNIFIL had been deployed, the south settled down to relative calm. After Israeli planes bombed Beirut on 17 July 1981, the American special envoy to the Middle East Philip Habib arranged a ceasefire between the PLO and Israel. The Israelis however had been planning a full-scale assault on Lebanon for a long time in order to get rid of the PLO presence once and for all. When the Israeli ambassador in London was wounded in an assassination attempt by a Palestinian faction that was hostile to the PLO, Israeli planes bombed positions in southern Lebanon and west Beirut. The Palestinians replied with a barrage of missiles on northern Israel and that was the excuse for the Israelis to launch their campaign.65 The Syrian troops mostly kept out of harms way, as did Amal in the south. UNIFIL was unceremoniously swept aside. A couple of days later, Israeli troops were surrounding west Beirut where they made contact with the Maronites. The Israeli attempts to enter the city were repelled by the PLO and her allies, which included Amal in Beirut.66

An agreement was arranged in August that the PLO would leave Beirut and American, Italian and French troops (the Multi National Force, MNF) would be brought in to guarantee the safety of the Palestinian camps. Israel agreed not to enter west Beirut. After the PLO left however, the Western troops left also.

Presidential elections took place under Israeli supervision. Bachir Gemayel, the leader of the Lebanese Forces and son of Pierre Gemayel, was elected president. On 14 September, however, before he was inaugurated, the headquarters of the LF was blown up resulting in the deaths of Bachir Gemayel and 30 militia members. Israel was identified as the guilty party right away, in Christian east Beirut as well as mainly Muslim west Beirut. The reason for this would be that Bachir Gemayel was too independent. Israeli troops wasted no time entering west Beirut.67 Israel allowed the LF into the camps Sabra and Shatila where they slaughtered the inhabitants. The number of dead was estimated between 3,000 and 5,000 including 700 to 800 Lebanese.

The coup de grâce for the PLO presence in Lebanon came in 1983. After a mutiny inside al-Fatah against Yasir Arafat, the Arafat loyalists were driven out of the camps in the Bekaa valley. The rebels were supported by Syria which had wanted to end the PLO’s independence for a long time.

The loyalists withdrew to the camps near Tripoli. Clashes had been going on there for some time between Tawhid, a Sunni fundamentalist group (more on this in the next chapter) and Syria and its allies. The loyalists and Tawhid therefore had a common enemy. When Yasir Arafat joined the loyalists in Tripoli, in the eyes of many Palestinians the conflict changed from a fight between two Palestinian factions to a struggle between the PLO and Syria.68 After two months of heavy fighting, an agreement was reached to evacuate Arafat and his men.


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Thanks, from:
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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