Israel's Invasion of Lebanon, Operation Peace
for the Galilee
Israel's Invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Operation
Peace for the Galilee; the routing of the PLO; Its rift with Syria &
Creation of PLFP; Islamic control of Lebanon; Emergence of Hamas and first
PLO instigated Civil War in Lebanon
The internecine strife in Lebanon which erupted
in 1974 continued in irregular fashion for eight years. The measure of
destruction was horrendous. According to conservative estimates some 100,000
Lebanese lost their lives, 50,000 of them in Beirut where the fighting
and slaughter was almost continuous; some 200,000 were wounded; hundreds
of thousands of people, mainly Christian, fled their homes to take refuge
with their co-religionists in other parts of the country or in countries
abroad, notably France, Germany and the United States. The destruction
of property comparable in many places to the ravages of World War II bombing
in Europe, has to this day not been assessed. Crucial areas of the economy-Lebanon
had been the financial hub, the "Switzerland", of the Arab world-disappeared.
A significant feature of the Civil War
was that at least two of the several combatant elements were not Lebanese
at all: the Syrians and the PLO. The Christians, After their rescue at
the hands of the Syrians from subjection and slaughter by the PLO and the
Lebanese Moslems, were enabled to continue in ostensible government power
as puppets of the Syrians. The Syrians, whose pretence of being a "peace
keeping" force had been consecrated by the other Arab States-and also,
it must be added, by a fawning Christian world-now occupied the eastern
part of the country (the Beka'a).
Lebanese Christian restiveness at Syrian
overlordship, however soon reasserted itself; and Syrian forces went into
action against some of their centres-notably, in 1978 in East Beirut and
Mount Lebanon, where thousands of civilians were killed and, again with
much death and destruction, in East Beirut and in the town Zahleh in the
Beka'a in April, 1981.
Syrian Troops invade Lebanon - up until Israeli
The Israeli Government reluctantly, and in
breach its traditional opposition to the entry of forces of remoter Arab
states into the territory of its immediate neighbours-Iraqis into Jordan,
Syrians into Jordan Lebanon-succumbed in 1976 to United States pressure
and agreed to the entry of Syrian troops into Lebanon. However it laid
down a geographical limit, a so-call "red line," to the Syrian occupation.
South of that line and down to the Israeli border there came into existence
an enclave dominated by Christians friendly to Israel. A military force
was built up by a local patriot leader, Sa'ad Hadad, a major in the Lebanese
army. Its primary objective was to defend hearth and home against what
had become the most direct threat to the population, Christian and Moslem:
shelling and forays by the PLO. The Christian-led force included Shi'ite
Moslems. The border with Israel had already been opened; through what came
to be known as the Good Fence, Israel held out a helping hand to Lebanese
civilians in need. These people, cut off by PLO occupation from Beirut
and the north, many of them in fact fleeing from PLO terror, were accorded
medical aid, employment and business contacts as required.
By the fall of 1977 some of the villages
in the enclave had been so badly damaged by persistent PLO shelling that
the Israeli Government sent in men and means to repair houses and schools
that had become unliveable and water systems that had been destroyed. No
less significant -- through the Good Fence came Israeli army instructors,
heavy and light arms, and ammunition.
Whether by formal agreement between Syria
and the PLO or by a pragmatic division of labour dictated by a Common purpose,
it was the PLO which took over effective control in the west and south
of the country. Their predominant occupation had not changed: the war on
Israel. In the course of those years, however, the PLO spread its grasp
far beyond that purpose. It established itself as a power with world-wide
ramifications. It became the central element, indeed the chief broker,
in international terror. In its camps it trained members of terrorist organisations
from Europe, from the Far East and from Latin America. It was evident that
in this function it was sponsored by the Soviet Union. These years saw
the development ever more closely of the ties with the Soviet Union that
Arafat had been cultivating since 1972. Frequent visits were paid to Moscow
by Arafat and other PLO leaders. The Soviet Union now in effect joined
the Arab countries in providing massive material aid to the PLO. Officers'
training facilities in various departments of warfare were made available
to the PLO both in the Soviet Union and in other Eastern bloc countries,
notably Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Cuba and Vietnam. (Some such assistance
was provided also by China, North Korea and Yugoslavia). The PLO proclaimed
its identification with the Soviet "struggle against imperialism" and the
aims of the Communist bloc in general. A large mass of written material
on these contacts and activities was uncovered in Lebanon by the Israeli
Defence Force in June 1982.
PLO Reign of Terror in Southern Lebanon
No less significant was the testimony contained
in these documents-and the verbal testimony of the people in South Lebanon-on
the regime of terror, of -- extortion and murder and rapine built up by
the PLO in the area of Lebanon which came under its control. The record
of the PLO in Lebanon bears a striking resemblance to an earlier chapter
in the history of our century: the first period of Nazi terror in Germany.
In one respect it seems to have been even worse: the "Open season" for
molestation and rape of any girl that took the fancy of a PLO gunman. The
wantonness of the killings, of men, women and children, the mutilation
of dead bodies, the confiscation of public buildings, and private homes
whose inmates were either driven away or killed, defies description.1
The U.N. was ineffective in reigning in PLO
in Sourthern Lebanon
The PLO's role as an international scourge
and its terrorist state-within-a-state were, for all their horrendousness,
contrapuntal to its offensive against Israel. This campaign grew in intensity
in 1977 and 1978. In March 1978 a civilian bus was ambushed on the coast
road in the north of Tel Aviv and nearly all its occupants were killed.
Israel now responded by sending an army in
Lebanon. The "Litani" operation was designed
to destroy PLO forces and installations as far as the Litani river. No
action was taken however to cut off the PLO forces in their retreat. There
followed the usual "international" reaction: the demand for Israeli withdrawal.
Israel succumbed to U.N. -- mainly American -- pressure, in return for
an international undertaking that a U.N. Force be established (UNIFIL)
to police the area and prevent the restoration of PLO bases and facilities.
The hollowness of this undertaking was guaranteed in the very terms of
reference of UNIFIL: its members were forbidden to use force unless they
were themselves directly attacked.
The terrorists returned to the area, simply
taking care not to clash with UNIFIL forces or men; and before long they
had entrenched themselves in the areas occupied by UNIFIL. They established
or re-established no fewer than 32 bases, manned by some 700 members (see
map on next page). In a number of cases UNIFIL units obeyed orders by the
PLO to evacuate positions they coveted-like the formidable Beaufort Castle,
which subsequently had to be captured by the Israeli Defence Force from
the PLO at a heavy cost in lives.
PLO ravages were thus soon renewed. Israel's
response at this time was to attack specific PLO targets from the air or
by artillery; and it increased its support for Major Hadad's Christian
and Shi'ite force. Hadad proclaimed his enclave as "Free Lebanon" to differentiate
it from the rest of his country, held in thrall by Syrians and the PLO.
He was cold-shouldered by the whole of the Christian world and was even
denied a visa visit the United States.
PLO Shelling of Northern Israel for years,
A climax came in 1981. the PLO was visibly
becoming, in local terms, a potential military power. It was using jeeps,
mortars and artillery, including long-range Soviet and French guns, Soviet
and North Korean rockets., It built a network of anti-aircraft guns and
shoulder-launched missiles which provided a serious defense against attack
from the air. Now, too, it obtained large numbers of Soviet F-34 tanks.
Defensive measures and counter-strikes, including operations by the Hadad
militia, mitigated the impact of the PLO offensive against the villages
and towns in Galilee but it was maintained with such intensity that the
people had to take to their shelters day after day. There began then a
substantial-and ominous-exodus of residents, notably from Kiryat Sh'monah,
a regular target of PLO shelling for years.
Southern Lebanon a Base for World-Wide Terrorism
In June 1981 a series of massive attacks
was carried out by the Israeli air force on PLO bases in the south and
on its headquarters complex in the heart of Beirut. They proved effective:
the PLO infrastructure in Lebanon appeared to be on the verge of collapse.
Arafat called to his Saudi patrons to address an urgent appeal to Washington
to press Israel to stop its offensive. American response was swift-and
the Israeli Government, incredibly, acquiesced. A cease-fire was agreed
to and the PLO was able to tend its wounds, reorganise and, in the shelter
of the cease-fire, to prepare the next round.
The nature and degree of the preparation
was made evident a year later.
The PLO interpreted the cease-fire in its
own way. As soon as it had recovered sufficiently from the blows it had
suffered, it carried out several forays from Jordanian territory and also
made attacks on Jewish targets Europe. Between July 1981 and June 1982
26 Israelis were killed and 264 injured. An Israeli diplomat in Paris,
Yaacov Bar-Simantov was assassinated. It was claimed by the PLO that the
cease-fire related only to the Lebanese border; Israel did not accept this
notion, and several air raids were carried out on PLO installations between
April and June 1982.
PLO Attempted Assasination of Israeli Ambassador
Then an attempt was made on the life of the
Israeli Ambassador in London, Shlomo Argov and he was all but fatally wounded.
This proved the last straw. Israel launched a large scale invasion of Lebanon:
Operation Peace for Galilee.
The most compelling circumstance dictating
the Israeli Government's decision was the evidence that poured in of a
PLO armaments build-up of clearly formidable dimensions. Even then, its
scope, as later revealed by the Israeli army in its drive through South
Lebanon, was stunning. Housed in tremendous underground tunnels were arms
of every conceivable description and range, from rifles to tanks-in quantities
manifestly greater than the PLO could itself handle. Most of the arsenal
was of Soviet manufacture, though other sources were also in evidence-including
the U.S., whose products no doubt reached the PLO through its Saudi patrons.
That the huge arsenal, as well as the masses
of documents, were discovered intact was due to t rapidity of the Israeli
army's advance through Southern Lebanon. The PLO forces were indeed overwhelmed
many were taken prisoner but large numbers retreated to Beirut. The people
of South Lebanon, Moslem and Christian, welcomed the IDF tumultuously as
liberators. Tens of thousands of people who had fled from the PLO terror
to refuge in Beirut and elsewhere in the north now flocked back to their
towns and villages.
Militarily, however, a series of tragic
events followed. Israeli Government spokesmen had made injudicious announcements
which were interpreted as limiting the goal of the invasion to the establishment
of a defense line of 40 kilometres inside Lebanon-to render Galilee out
of range for the known arms of the PLO.
Israeli Invasion of Lebanon
If this policy had indeed been followed, leaving
the PLO intact as an organisation, with its headquarters continuing to
operate in Beirut, the Israel force would inevitably have been subjected
to an ongoing guerrilla war of attrition, directed by Arafat from Beirut,
not to mention the perpetuation of PLO terror in Europe, the rest of the
The IDF however advanced beyond the 40
kilometre line and, indeed, reached the outskirts of Beirut. There the
main PLO force, headed by Arafat, was now concentrated. The speed of the
advance was such that IDF enjoyed the advantage of a large measure of surprise.
The road between Beirut and Damascus was cut thus making reinforcement
from the cast-by Syria and other PLO units-very difficult. Moreover, the
Syrians themselves were reeling from a phenomenal defeat in the air and
on the ground. They had intervened in the war by attacking Israeli aircraft.
The Israeli Air Force, in reply, destroyed a number of the most modem missiles
installed by the Soviets in Syria and, in air battles, brought down some
90 Syrian planes without losing even one aircraft.
However there was considerable reluctance
in Israel, on political grounds, to enter Beirut-occasioned largely by
the traditional international outcry and direct Washington pressure. Beirut
was entered only after long delay; and Arafat agreed to leave Lebanon only
his installations in Beirut had been heavily bombed by the Israeli Air
Force. This phase culminated in a U.S. undertaking to ensure the evacuation
of the PLO force, but on condition that the IDF first withdraw from the
city. This condition was acceded to, the IDF withdrew, and the PLO, saved
from the finality of surrender, left Beirut (31 Aug" 1982).
Thus did PLO domination of a large part
of Lebanon and its population come to an end, as indeed did its intimidating
role on the international front -- and -- its capacity, for the foreseeable
future, to launch a massive on Israel.
PLO Domination of Souther Lebanon comes to
an end; Rift with Syria; Formation of PLFP; Arafat moves operations to
For a political perspective of subsequent
events their essential features were:
1. A rift between the PLO leadership and
Syria and a breach within the PLO, where a minority sided with Syria. The
alleged cause was a new-born moderation in Arafat who was accused of being
prepared to negotiate with Israel. In fact repeated attempts by the United
States made indirectly or unofficially, to persuade Arafat at least to
pay lip-service to a renunciation of terror and to recognise Resolution
242 of the UN Security Council (see page 188) had no more effect than similar
attempts in earlier years.
The rebellious PLO minority, headed by
Abu Musa, a former lieutenant of Arafat, remained in Syria or Syrian-held
territory in Lebanon; but Arafat's leadership was endorsed by all the other
Arab states except Libya. They continued to fulfil, as far as was feasible,
the undertaking they had given in 1974 at Rabat -- of all-out support for
the PLO as the "legitimate representative of the Palestinian people."
Arafat established his new headquarters
in Tunisia but, in violation of his undertaking, returned to Lebanon in
1983. He failed however to regain a sure foothold. Besieged in Tripoli
by the Syrians and the PLO dissidents, and with his positions shelled by
Israel, he was saved once again (in December 1983) through U.S. pressure
on Israel. On the strength of a United Nations resolution that saving Arafat
would be a humanitarian act, the Greek Government sent ships to take him
and his followers off-after Israel had acceded to American demands to stop
There followed a year of manoeuvring between
Arafat and Hussein, directed by Mubarak with American approval, which resulted
in Arafat's meetings and "agreement" with Hussein in March 1985.
While it might have been expected-and indeed
Washington did expect-that, defeated as he was and indebted for his freedom
and perhaps his life to the United States, Arafat would at least show a
semblance of acceptance of the United States' conditions for negotiating
with him; the text of the "agreement" with Hussein reveals only a willingness
to use obfuscatory language for presenting the traditional Arab demands.
Failed Israeli Attempt to Restore Christian
role in the government of Lebanon
2. The breakdown of the relationship between
Israel and the Christian leadership in Beirut. There had been an understanding
with them that when the IDF reached Beirut the Phalangist militias in the
city would go into action in order to expel the PLO. This was optimistically
designed also to bring about a restoration of the central Christian role
in the government of Lebanon and to lay the foundations for an alliance
or at least a full peace, with Israel. In any event the Christians did
not lift a finger. One of the ugly features of the early stages of the
Lebanese war was that while the Israeli army was suffering heavy casualties
large numbers of Christian young men were disporting themselves at the
seaside resort of Junieh, presumably waiting to be called in to reap he
fruits of Israeli victory.
Nevertheless the Israeli Government persevered
in its relationship with the Phalangist leader, Bashir Jemayel who on the
collapse of the old puppet regime, had been elected President of Lebanon.
He was soon assassinated however (September 1982) and was succeeded by
his younger brother Amin. Amin had no record of friendship Israel; and
in Jerusalem's effort to achieve an agreement to ensure at least tranquillity
and security on the border he proved to be an unfriendly negotiator indeed.
Finally, under United States pressure, he signed an agreement (17th May
1983) formalising a framework which would enable Israel to control security
in the south of Lebanon. He was at once subjected to fierce Syrian pressure
to renege on the agreement. He did so; and thereafter accepted Syrian domination
and dictation no less faithfully than had his predecessors before 1982.
Syria's hold on Lebanon becomes stonger; resumption
of Civil War; Emergence of Moslem Shi段te control (later called Hamas)
Syria's hold on Lebanon thus became probably
even firmer than it had been throughout the Civil War.
Syria's enhanced status provides an ironic
footnote to the continuing myopia in U.S. policy in the Middle East. Washington's
repeated pressure on Israel to withdraw from Lebanon was accompanied by
assurances that it would similarly achieve a Syrian withdrawal. This failure
to understand Syria's historic purpose-to enfold Lebanon in its embrace-was
compounded by the oft-manifested belief of American statesmen in the existence
of Saudi influence on Syria (as indeed of Saudi "moderation" and of Saudia
as a "bastion of Western defence").
Syria a was unable however to prevent a
resumption of civil war-though now the protagonists had changed. The IDF
withdrew from the central Shouf mountain area -- and severe righting broke
out between Christians and Druse, age-old contestants for control. The
Druse won the contest. Later, when the IDF withdrew from the Sidon area,
violent hostilities erupted between Christians Moslems in the town. At
the same time, Christians Moslems were in almost continuous battle in Beirut.
Now the re-formed Lebanese army also took part; but being attacked from
different sides, and reacting accordingly had no special thrust in any
The most significant change in the chaotic
demographic map of Lebanese strife was the emergence of the Moslem Shi段te
community as a political factor, and its projection of a militant guerrilla
movement. With the establishment of a measure of Lebanese democracy in
the wake of the liberating entry of the IDF, this previously most passive
and unconsidered of all the minorities had demanded -- and obtained --
a larger share in the government, such as it was, of the country. Meantime
the Khomeini Shi'ite revolution in Iran, vigorously engaged in exporting
its revolution, had achieved substantial influence in the Shi段te community
in Lebanon; and two of the central targets for its fanatical ferocity were
the United States (described by Khomeini as the "Big Satan") and Israel.
The militant Shi'ites carried out attacks
on Israeli soldiers and transport by planting explosives on roads and by
direct ambush day after day-and persisted long after Israel announced the
complete withdrawal of the IDF from Lebanon and even more intensively during
the progress of its withdrawal.
Whether Shi'ite hostilities will be extended
to Israeli territory after the total withdrawal of the IDF is a matter
of conjecture. It is not clear to what extent the militant Shi段tes are
supported within their community- bearing in mind especially the fact that
that community, like the others in Lebanon, owed to Israel its liberation
from PLO terror. Moreover the Shi段te villagers in the south undoubtedly
fear the return of the PLO terrorists and must envisage the consequent
possible need of Israeli friendship and assistance for keeping them at
The First Suicide Bombers
During this period a particularly weird phenomenon
the horrendous encouragement and training of Shi段te youths to carry out
suicide attacks. Thus cars loaded with explosives were in driven in to
the American Embassy in Beirut and later against the U.S. Marine H.Q.;
and twice against Israeli Army H.Q. In Tyre. Hundreds of people lost their
lives. it was universally assumed that these were carried out by religious
fanatics under the promise that such acts would bring them straight to
Paradise. Later similar attacks on Israeli troops were however demonstrated
to have been carried out by disturbed young people, ostensibly out of political
devotion to Syrian President Assad. Still in progress as this is written.
Changes between 1977 and 1985
Looked at dispassionately, what has changed
in the essentials of the Palestine battleground between 1977 and 1985?
Fundamentally-nothing. The balance of forces
is different, favouring the Arabs. Sinai in Egypt's hands is of tremendous
military and psychological importance. On the other hand Israel痴 crushing
of the PLO as a political force and as a serious physical threat is a tactical
and moral gain. It must be remembered that even before the great build-up
of Soviet arms in Lebanon in 1981-1982 the PLO's sustained attack with
Katyushas on Northern Galilean villages caused not a few residents to flee
their homes and indeed brought on a mass exodus from the village of Kiryat
Sh'mona. IDF long-range response by artillery and air attack on local targets
did not halt the PLO offensive or prevent the flight from Kiryat Sh'mona.
The PLO attacks were weakened considerably only by the heavy air offensive
against the PLO headquarters and infrastructure in summer 1981 (leading
to the cease-fire).
The strengthening of the Syrians' control
of Lebanon may yet have the consequence of being more trouble to them than
it is worth. Their effort to bring about national reconciliation and inter-communal
co-operation has so far failed-in typical Lebanese fashion. At this writing
(April 1985) Jemayel's cabinet is in tatters, and the Syrians are pressing
him vigorously to bring order into the country, It is likely that they
will find that they have to send troops in to establish a pax Syriana.
This would inevitably again bring them into conflict sooner or later with
the Christians, even probably with one or other of the Moslem groups and
would create uneasy proximity with Israel.
In any case, it has been made manifest-ten
years after Syria instigated what became a multi-factional civil war -a
war which continues to rage uncontrolled-that Lebanon is no longer a state
in any rational sense.
In the context of this book the relations
between Israel and the Arabs have remained unchanged. The Arab national
and religious doctrine-that Israel shall be eliminated- has remained intact;
and the hope of Its ultimate consummation remains the principle guiding
their activities. If more Arabs are now prepared to talk of negotiations
with Israel, they all without exception make it clear that peace will be
possible only if Israel reduces herself to indefensible borders, and allows
the refugees back (to Haifa, Jaffa etc). At that point, if Israel were
not already dismantled, she would be expected to dismantle herself as a
state (in accordance with PLO demands, or at least in the spirit of the
more sophisticated semantics of Dr. Butrus Ghali.)
The contours of the battleground rearrange
themselves. The conflict goes on.
1. The authoritative
work on the subject is PLO in Lebanon: Selected Documents (Ed. Raphael
Israeli, London 1983) complete with photostated copies of official PLO
documents and testimony of survivors of its terror.
This page was produced by Joseph
Middle Eastern Political and Religious
Brooklyn, New York
to a friend
Source: "Battleground: Fact & Fantasy
in Palestine" by Samuel Katz,
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