|1982 Lebanon War|
|Part of Israeli–Palestinian conflict and Lebanese Civil War|
Lebanese troops in Beirut, 1982
Other armed groups:
|Commanders and leaders|
(Ministry of Defence)
(Army Chief of Staff)
(Israeli Air Force)
(Israeli Sea Corps)
(Chairman of the PLO)
(Minister of Defense)
300 artillery pieces
100 anti-aircraft guns
125 SAM batteries
350+ artillery pieces
250+ anti-aircraft guns
|Casualties and losses|
Syrian & Palestinian combatants:|
See Casualties below.
|Civilians: See Casualties below.|
The 1982 Lebanon War (Hebrew: מלחמת לבנון הראשונה, Milhemet Levanon Harishona, "the first Lebanon war"), (Arabic language: الاجتياح, Al-ijtiyāḥ, "the invasion"), called Operation Peace for Galilee (Hebrew: מבצע שלום הגליל, or מבצע של"ג Mivtsa Shlom HaGalil or Mivtsa Sheleg) by Israel, and later known in Israel as the Lebanon War and First Lebanon War, began on 6 June 1982, when the Israel Defense Forces invaded southern Lebanon. The Government of Israel launched the military operation after the Abu Nidal Organization's assassination attempt against Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Shlomo Argov, which was used by Begin as justification for the invasion. This justification for the Lebanon invasion by Israel has been criticized given the 1974 split between the Abu Nidal Organisation and Arafat's PLO, that Abu Nidal was Arafat's mortal Palestinian enemy, that at the time its agents were also seeking to assassinate Fatah officials, and that it was based in Syria and not in Lebanon.
By expelling the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), removing Syrian influence over Lebanon, and installing a pro-Israeli Christian government led by Bachir Gemayel, Israel hoped to sign a treaty which Menachem Begin promised would give Israel "forty years of peace". However, the long occupation that followed Israel's 1982 invasion had repercussions for Israel with Hezbollah being conceived to offer resistance to the Israeli occupation.
After attacking the PLO – as well as Syrian, leftist, and Muslim Lebanese forces – Israel occupied southern Lebanon, eventually surrounding the PLO and elements of the Syrian army. Surrounded in West Beirut and subjected to heavy bombardment, the PLO forces and their allies negotiated passage from Lebanon with the aid of United States Special Envoy Philip Habib and the protection of international peacekeepers. The PLO, under the chairmanship of Yasser Arafat, had relocated its headquarters to Tripoli in June 1982.
However, following the assassination of Lebanese President Bachir Gemayel, Israel's position in Beirut became untenable and the signing of a peace treaty became increasingly unlikely. Outrage following Israel's role in the Christian-done Sabra and Shatila Massacre of Palestinian refugees and Israeli popular disillusionment with the war would lead to a gradual withdrawal from Beirut to southern Lebanon, which was initiated following the 17 May Agreement and Syria's change of attitude towards the PLO. After Israel had left most of Lebanon, the War of the Camps broke out between Lebanese factions, the PLO and Syria, in which Syria fought its former Palestinian allies. At the same time, Shi'a militant groups began consolidating and waging a low-intensity guerrilla war over the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, leading to 18 years of low-scale armed conflict. The Lebanese Civil War would continue until 1990, at which point Syria had established complete dominance over Lebanon.
Relocation of PLO from Jordan to South Lebanon
After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Lebanon became home to more than 110,000 Palestinian refugees, after their settlements in Palestine and Israel had been depopulated as a result of the war. After its founding in 1964 and the radicalization among Jews, which followed the Six Day War, the PLO became a powerful force, then centred in Jordan. The large influx of Palestinians from Jordan after "Black September" caused an additional demographic imbalance within Lebanese society and its democratic institutions established earlier by the National Pact. By 1975, the refugees numbered more than 300,000 and the PLO in effect created an unofficial state-within-a-state, particularly in Southern Lebanon, which then played an important role in the Lebanese Civil War.
Continual violence near the Lebanese border occurred between Israel and the PLO starting from 1968; this peaked, following the relocation of PLO bases to Lebanon after the civil war in Jordan.
Lebanese civil war
The continuing violence near the Lebanese border between Israel and the PLO peaked during Operation Litani in 1978, provoked by the Coastal Road Massacre which was carried out by Palestinian militants. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was created after the incursion, following the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 425 in March 1978 to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Southern Lebanon, restore international peace and security, and help the government of Lebanon restore its effective authority in the area.
As early as 1976, Israel had been assisting Lebanese Christian militias in their sporadic battles against the PLO. During Operation Litani in 1978, Israel established a security zone in southern Lebanon with mostly Christian inhabitants, in which they began to supply training and arms to Christian militias which would later form the South Lebanese Army. But Israel's main partner was to be the Maronite Phalange party, whose paramilitary was led by Bashir Gemayel, a rising figure in Lebanese politics Gemayel's strategy during the early stages of the Lebanese Civil War was to provoke the Syrians into retaliatory attacks on Christians, such that Israel could not ignore. In 1978, Menachem Begin declared that Israel would not allow a genocide of Lebanese Christians, while refusing direct intervention. Hundreds of Lebanese militiamen began to train in Israel, at the IDF Staff and Command College. The relationship between Israel and the Maronites began to grow into a political-strategic alliance, and members of the Israeli government like Ariel Sharon began to conceive of a plan to install a pro-Israel Christian government in Lebanon, as it was known that Bashir wanted to remove the PLO and all Palestinian refugees in the country.
During the period June to December 1980 the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) recorded an increase in activities along the border zone. No attacks by Palestinian forces on Israel were recorded, while the IDF incursions across the armistice line into Lebanon increased markedly, with minefields being laid, gun posts established, and generally involving numerous violations of Lebanese air-space and territorial waters. This was formally protested by the Lebanese government to the UN Security Council and General Assembly in several communicationsas violations by Israel of United Nations Security Council Resolution 425. During the same period Israel protested numerous attacks by Palestinian forces, unrelated to the Lebanese border zone.
1981 events and cease-fire
In his report for the period of 12 December 1980 to 12 June 1981 on UNIFIL activities, the Security Council Secretary General noted that infiltrations into the border zone by Palestinian armed forces had decreased relative to the previous six months. In contrast the IDF had launched various attacks on Lebanese territory often in support of the Lebanese Christian militia. In doing so Israel had violated UN Security Council resolution 425 on hundreds of occasions [paragraph 58]. Where the initiator(s) of attacks could be identified in the report, in 15 cases Palestinian militants were to blame while on 23 occasions the Militia and/or the IDF were the instigators, the latter also being responsible for the most violent confrontation of the period on 27 April [paragraph 52].
In the subsequent period 16 June to 10 December 1981 a relative quiet was reported continuing from 29 May 1981 until 10 July. This was broken when "Israeli aircraft resumed strikes against targets in southern Lebanon north of the UNIFIL area. (The Israeli strikes) led to exchanges of heavy firing between armed elements (Palestinians), on the one hand, and IDF and the de facto forces (Christian Militia) on the other. On 13 and 14 July, widespread Israeli air-strikes continued. Armed elements (Palestinians) fired into the enclave and northern Israel." Israeli-initiated attacks had led to rocket and artillery fire on northern Israel. This pattern continued in the coming days.
Israel renewed its air strikes in an attempt to trigger a war that would allow it to drive out the PLO and restore peace to the region. On 17 July, the Israel Air Force launched a massive attack on PLO buildings in downtown Beirut. "Perhaps as many as three hundred died, and eight hundred were wounded, the great majority of them civilians." The Israeli army also heavily targeted PLO positions in south Lebanon without success in suppressing Palestinian rocket launchers and guns. As a result, thousands of Israeli citizens who resided near the Lebanese border headed south. There patterns of Israeli-initiated airstrikes and Palestinian retaliations with attacks on northern Israel are in contrast with the official Israeli version "A ceasefire declared in July 1981 was broken: the terrorists continued to carry out attacks against Israeli targets in Israel and abroad, and the threat to the northern settlements became unbearable."
On 24 July 1981, United States Undersecretary of State Philip Habib brokered a ceasefire badly needed by both parties, the best achievable result from negotiations via intermediaries, aimed at complying with the decisions of UN Security Council resolution 490. The process was complicated, requiring "shuttle diplomacy between Damascus, Jerusalem, and Beirut, United States. Philip Habib concluded a ceasefire across the Lebanon border between Israel and the PLO. Habib could not talk to the PLO directly because of Kissinger’s directive, so he used a Saudi member of the royal family as mediator. The agreement was oral — nothing could be written down since Israel and the PLO did not recognize each other and refused to negotiate with each other — but they came up with a truce. ... Thus the border between Lebanon and Israel suddenly stabilized after over a decade of routine bombing."
Between July 1981 and June 1982, as a result of the Habib ceasefire, the Lebanese-Israeli border "enjoyed a state of calm unprecedented since 1968." But the 'calm' was tense. US Secretary of State, Alexander Haig filed a report with US President Ronald Reagan on Saturday 30 January 1982 that revealed Secretary Haig's fear that Israel might, at the slightest provocation, start a war against Lebanon.
The 'calm' lasted nine months. Then, on 21 April 1982, after a landmine killed an Israeli officer while he was visiting a South Lebanese Army gun emplacement in Taibe, Lebanon, the Israeli Air Force attacked the Palestinian-controlled coastal town of Damour, killing 23 people. Fisk reports further on this incident: "The Israelis did not say what the soldier was doing ... I discovered that he was visiting one of Haddad's artillery positions (Christian militia) and that the mine could have been lain as long ago as 1978, perhaps even by the Israelis themselves"
On 9 May 1982, Israeli aircraft again attacked targets in Lebanon. Later that same day, UNIFIL observed the firing of rockets from Palestinian positions in the Tyre region into northern Israel, but none of the projectiles hit Israeli towns — the gunners had been ordered to miss. Major-General Erskine (Ghana), Chief of Staff of UNTSO reported to the Secretary-General and the Security Council (S/14789, S/15194) that from August 1981 to May 1982, inclusive, there were 2096 violations of Lebanese airspace and 652 violations of Lebanese territorial waters. The freedom of movement of UNIFIL personnel and UNTSO observers within the enclave remained restricted due to the actions of Amal and the South Lebanon Army under Major Saad Haddad's leadership with the backing of Israeli military forces.
Prior to establishing ceasefire in July 1981, U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim noted: "After several weeks of relative quiet in the area, a new cycle of violence has begun and has, in the past week, steadily intensified." He further stated: "There have been heavy civilian casualties in Lebanon; there have been civilian casualties in Israel as well. I deeply deplore the extensive human suffering caused by these developments." The President of the U.N. Security Council, Ide Oumarou of Niger, expressed "deep concern at the extent of the loss of life and the scale of the destruction caused by the deplorable events that have been taking place for several days in Lebanon".
From the ceasefire, established in July 1981, until the start of the war, Israel recorded 240 terrorist actions committed by the PLO against Israeli targets including the assassination of an Israeli diplomat in Paris and encounters with PLO units attempting to cross from Jordan. The PLO maintained that the ceasefire agreement covered only operations across the Lebanese–Israeli border, and while the border was peaceful, the more than 240 PLO terror attacks against Israeli targets elsewhere, were considered by Israel to be violations of the ceasefire.
This Israeli view is in conflict with other interpretations. In Ariel Sharon's biography by his son, Gilad Sharon, the author referring to the Habib ceasefire, comments: "However, the agreement was explicit only regarding preventing terror from Lebanon, which is why my father encouraged the cabinet not to accept the offer as presented by the Americans." "The cease-fire, as both the PLO and the Americans saw it, did not include terror attacks stemming from Lebanon and carried out against Jews in Europe and other locales. In a meeting my father had with Alexander Haig and Philip Habib on May 25, 1982, Habib repeated what he had already said many times before: “Terrorist attacks against Israelis and Jews in Europe are not included in the cease-fire agreement.”"
Arafat pressured the radical factions to maintain the ceasefire because he did not wish to provoke the Israelis into an all-out attack. The PLO acceptance of the ceasefire had led to dissension even within Fatah itself. A faction sympathetic to Abu Nidal forced a military confrontation, with accompanying arrests and executions — an event unprecedented in PLO internal disputes’. Arafat even attempted to distance himself from Palestinian unrest on the West Bank to prevent an Israeli attack. In contrast, Begin, Sharon and Eitan were searching for any excuse to neutralize their military opponents through a breach of the ceasefire. They believed that Arafat was buying time to build up his conventional forces. The Israeli interpretation of the conditions for the ceasefire placed responsibility for any act of Palestinian violence on Arafat’s shoulders. It presumed that Arafat had complete control, not only over all factions within the PLO such as the rejectionist Popular Front of George Habash, but also over those outside such as Abu Nidal’s Fatah Revolutionary Council and Ahmed Jibril’s Popular Front — General Command. Moreover, in Begin’s eyes, the ceasefire was not geographically limited to the Lebanese border. He argued that if Palestinian terrorism struck internationally, then this too would be regarded as a breach of the ceasefire. Begin thus took a stand-off in a local battle as applying to the entire war anywhere in the Middle East or any incident internationally. Eitan commented that there was no difference if a terrorist threw a grenade in Gaza or fired a shell at a Northern settlement — all such acts broke the ceasefire. Sharon similarly did not wish to draw distinctions between different Palestinian factions, since all blame had to be attached co the PLO. He dismissed attempts at more rational evaluation as masking the real issue. In a speech to a Young Herut conference in April 1982, he accused those who tried to take a more objective standpoint of erecting ‘a protective wall around the PLO inside and outside Israel’.
Further support comes from George Ball, that the PLO had observed the ceasefire. Israel, he said, continued looking for the "internationally recognized provocation" that Secretary of State Alexander Haig said would be necessary to obtain American support for an Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Secretary Haig's critics have accused him of "greenlighting" the Israeli Invasion of Lebanon in June 1982. Haig denies this and says he urged restraint. In the biography of ceasefire broker Philip Habib, Alexander Haig is cited as leaving the worst impression of all in the lead up to Israel's Lebanon invasion:
"Haig thus comes off very badly: not a team player, not able to keep the rest of the administration informed of what was going on beforehand, not willing to tell anyone in the White House why Sharon was so confident during the invasion, hoping that Reagan's special envoy would fail in his mission, and having little sense of what the national security of the United States required--which was not a confrontation between Israeli and Soviet tanks on the road from Beirut to Damascus.
The American reaction was that they would not apply any undue pressure on Israel to quit Lebanon as the Israeli presence in Lebanon may prove to be a catalyst for the disparate groups of Lebanon to make common cause against both Syrian and Israeli forces. Haig's analysis, which Ronald Reagan agreed with, was that this uniting of Lebanese groups would allow President Elias Sarkis to reform the Lebanese central Government and give the Palestinian refugees Lebanese citizenship.
According to Avi Shlaim, the real driving force behind the Israeli invasion to Lebanon was the defense minister Ariel Sharon. One of his aims was the destruction of PLO military infrastructure in Lebanon and undermining it as a political organization, in order to facilitate the absorption of the West Bank by Israel. The second aim was the establishment of the Maronite government in Lebanon, headed by Bashir Gemayel and signing the peace treaty between two countries, the third aim was the expelling of Syrian army from Lebanon. Also, according to Shlaim, with the completion of Israeli withdrawals from Sinai in March 1982, under the terms of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, the Likud-led government of Israel hardened its attitude to the Arab world and became more aggressive.
According to Zeev Maoz in Defending the Holy Land: A Critical Analysis of Israel’s National Security and Foreign Policy the goals of the war were primarily developed by then Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon and were fourfold: 1) "Destroy the PLO infrastructure in Lebanon, including the PLO headquarters in Beirut." 2) "Drive Syrian forces out of Lebanon." 3) "Install a Christian-dominated government in Lebanon, with Bashir Gemayel as President." 4) "Sign a peace treaty with the Lebanese government that would solidify the informal Israeli-Christian alliance and convert it into a binding agreement.
The military plan with the code name "Big Pines", prepared by IDF, envisaged invasion to Lebanon up to the highway Damascus-Beirut and linking with Maronite forces. It was first presented to Israeli cabinet on 20 December 1981 by Begin, but rejected by the majority of ministers. According to Avi Shlaim, Sharon and chief of staff Rafael Eitan, realizing that there was no chance in persuading the cabinet to approve a large-scale operation in Lebanon, adopted a different tactic and intended to implement "Operation Big Pines" in stages by manipulating enemy provocations and Israeli responses.
On 3 June 1982 Israel’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Shlomo Argov was shot and seriously wounded in London by terrorists belonging to the Iraqi-backed Abu Nidal terrorist organization. In his memoirs, Sharon stated that the attack was "merely the spark that lit the fuse". Israeli prime Minister Begin used this as the "internationally recognized provocation" necessary to invade Lebanon. The fact that the Abu Nidal organization was the longtime rival of PLO, that its head was condemned to death by the PLO court, that the British police reported that PLO leaders were on the "hit list" of the attackers, and that the Abu Nidal group was based in Syria and not Lebanon did not deter Begin.
At the Israeli Cabinet meeting the following day, both Begin and Eitan belittled intelligence reports that the likely culprit was the Abu Nidal group. Begin cut short his own advisor on terrorism, arguing that all Palestinian terrorists were members of the PLO, while Eitan ridiculed the intelligence staff for splitting hairs and demanded to strike at the PLO. Yet Abu Nidal had broken with Arafat and PLO in 1974 over a fundamental principle: namely, that the Palestinian national movement would adopt a phased piecemeal approach to secure a Palestinian state and embark on a political path. The lack of understanding of the difference between Palestinian groups and the total ignorance of Palestinian politics on the part an overwhelming majority of Israelis and Jews played into the hands of those who did not wish to distinguish between the PLO and the Abu Nidal group. Thus, instead of an initiative to locate the Abu Nidal group in Damascus or Baghdad, the plan to invade Lebanon was activated.:119–120
The PLO denied complicity in the attack, but Israel retaliated with punishing air and artillery strikes against Palestinian targets in Lebanon, including the PLO camps. Sabra and Shatila refugee camps were bombed for four hours and the local "Gaza" hospital was hit there. About 200 people were killed during these attacks.[better source needed] The PLO hit back firing rockets at northern Israel causing considerable damage and some loss of life. According to another source, twenty villages were targeted in Galilee and 3 Israelis were wounded.
According to Shlaim, Yasser Arafat, at that time being in Saudi Arabia, told the Americans through the Saudis that he was willing to suspend cross-border shelling. But that message was disregarded by the Israeli government. President Reagan also sent a message to Begin urging him not to widen the attack.
On 6 June 1982, Israeli forces under direction of Defence Minister Ariel Sharon invaded southern Lebanon in "Operation Peace for Galilee".
Course of the fighting
Israel's publicly stated objective was to push PLO forces back 40 kilometres (25 mi) to the north. Israeli forces pushed in from Southern Lebanon in a three-pronged offensive. They captured strategic positions throughout the country, with some of the fiercest fighting taking place at Beaufort Castle, Nabatieh, and the Syrian-held town of Jezzine. In an effort to establish air superiority and greater freedom of action, the Israeli Air Force launched Operation Mole Cricket 19. During the course of the operation, the Israeli Air Force scored a dramatic victory over the Syrians shooting down more than 80 Syrian planes and also destroyed 30 Syrian anti-aircraft missile batteries, with no air to air losses of its own. However, one A-4 Skyhawk was lost to anti-aircraft fire on 6 June. Syria acknowledged the loss of 16 aircraft. Israeli aircraft also pounded PLO targets in Beirut, and Israeli gunboats shelled the coastal roads in order to cut PLO supply lines. Although Israeli forces managed to fight their way into the Syrian-held town of Sultan Yacoub, they became surrounded. Although they successfully broke out, Sultan Yacoub was one of the few objectives the IDF failed to take over the course of the war. The Israelis swept through Lebanon, pushing towards Beirut. To cut off any PLO retreat routes, the Israeli Navy facilitated an amphibious landing of tanks, armoured vehicles, and paratroopers north of Sidon. The Israel Defense Forces soon reached Beirut and were determined to drive the PLO from southern Lebanon. Tyre and Sidon (major cities in South Lebanon, still within the 40-kilometre (25 mi) limit) were heavily damaged, and the Lebanese capital Beirut was shelled by Israeli artillery, and bombed by Israeli aircraft for ten weeks, killing PLO members though some civilians were also killed. Israeli troops captured Beirut Airport and several southern suburbs of the city in heavy fighting.
During the course of combat operations, the Israeli Air Force conducted successful ground attack missions against Syrian and PLO targets, with Israeli attack helicopters inflicting heavy losses on Syrian armor. Israeli jets shot down between 82 and 86 Syrian aircraft in aerial combat, without losses. A single Israeli A-4 Skyhawk and two helicopters were shot down by anti-aircraft fire and SAM missiles. This was the largest aerial combat battle of the jet age with over 150 fighters from both sides engaged. Syrian claims of aerial victories were met with skepticism even from their Soviet allies. The Soviets were so shaken by the staggering losses sustained by their allies that they dispatched the deputy head of their air defense force to Syria to examine how the Israelis had been so dominant. The Israeli Air Force also performed ground attacks, notably destroying the majority of Syrian anti-aircraft batteries stationed in Lebanon. AH-1 Cobra helicopter gunships were employed against Syrian armour and fortifications. IAF Cobras destroyed dozens of Syrian Armored fighting vehicles, including some of the modern Soviet T-72 main battle tanks. The war also witnessed the Israeli Merkava MBT make its first combat debut, squaring off against Syrian T-72 tanks. During these engagements, the Israelis claimed that the Merkava proved superior to the T-72, destroying a number of them without sustaining a single loss to T-72 fire. Former IAF commander, David Ivri would later recall a meeting with a high-ranking member of the Warsaw Pact, in which he was told that the dominance of Israeli and U.S. technology and tactics during the war was one of the factors that changed Soviet mind-set, leading to Glasnost and ultimately, the fall of the Soviet Union. However, defense analysts and the Syrians claimed the opposite, saying that their T-72s were highly effective and that none were lost. The T-72 tanks of the Syrian 2nd Armored Division were credited with not only halting the advance of an Israeli armored brigade on Rashaya on June 10 but pushing them back. They tallied the destruction of 33 tanks and the capture of an M60 Patton, which was sent to Damascus and thence transported to Moscow. Syrian tanks saw similar success against Israeli armor in 'Ayn Zahalta and Sultan Yaqub (in the Bekaa Valley) in fighting on June 8–10, stemming their advance to capture the Beirut-Damascus highway.
An agreement was reached later in 1982. More than 14,000 PLO combatants evacuated the country in August and September, supervised by the Multinational Force in Lebanon, an international peacekeeping force with troops from the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Italy. About 6,500 Fatah fighters relocated from Beirut to Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, both North and South Yemen, Greece, and Tunisia—the latter of which became the new PLO headquarters. Philip Habib, Ronald Reagan's envoy to Lebanon, provided an understanding (i.e., assurance) to the PLO that the Palestinian civilians in the refugee camps would not be harmed. However, the United States Marines left West Beirut two weeks before the end of their official mandate following the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing.
On 14 September 1982, Bachir Gemayel, the newly elected President of Lebanon, was assassinated by Habib Shartouni of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. Israeli forces occupied West Beirut the next day. At that time, the Lebanese Christian Militia, also known as the Phalangists, were allied with Israel. The Israeli command authorized the entrance of a force of approximately 150 Phalangist fighters' into the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, claiming there was a remaining force of approximately "2000 PLO terrorists" in the camps. The result was the Sabra and Shatila massacre in which at least 800 civilians were killed by the Phalangists, who themselves suffered only two casualties. Meanwhile, Israeli troops surrounded the camps with tanks and checkpoints, monitoring entrances and exits. Further, Israeli investigation by the Kahan Commission of Inquiry found that Ariel Sharon bore "personal responsibility" for failing to prevent the massacre, and for failing to act once he learned that a massacre had started, and recommended that he be removed as Defence Minister and that he never hold a position in any future Israeli government. Sharon initially ignored the call to resign, but after the death of an anti-war protester following an anti-war protest, he did resign as Israel's Defence Minister, however, he remained in Begin's cabinet as a Minister without portfolio. His career recovered 15 years later and was eventually elected Israel’s 11th Prime Minister.
The 1982 Lebanon War was first a conventional war up to and including when the PLO were expelled from Beirut. The war was limited by both Israel and Syria because they were determined to isolate the fighting, not allowing it to turn into an all-out war. Israeli forces were numerically superior, allowing Israel to maintain both the initiative and an element of surprise. The Syrian Army fielded six divisions and 500 aircraft, while Israel used five divisions and two brigades, plus 600 aircraft. There were numerous other factions involved.
IDF forces totalled 78,000 men, 1,240 tanks and 1,500 armoured personnel carriers. IDF troops were deployed in five divisions and two reinforced brigade-size units. The IDF maintained additional forces on the Golan Heights as an area reserve. IDF forces were divided into three main axis of advances called sectors:
- Coastal Sector, (from Rosh Hanikra north to Tyre, Sidon, Damour and Beirut.) – Forces included Division 91 with three brigades including the 211th and the Golani Brigade. The 35 Paratroop Brigade and the Na'hal 50th Paratroop Battalion were attached to the division as needed. The Israeli Navy provided naval interdiction, shore gunfire support and landed a mixed brigade from Division 96 at the mouth of the Awali River near Sidon. Israeli Naval commandos had landed there previously.
- Central Sector (from Beaufort Castle to Nabatiyeh) – Jezzine was the main objective and then on to Sidon to link up with the coastal forces. IDF forces included the Divisions 36 and 162.
- Eastern Sector (from Rachaiya and Hasbaiya thru the Bekaa Valley around Lake Qaraoun) – IDF forces included Divisions 90 and 252, the Vardi Force and the Special Maneuver Force which was composed of two brigades of Infantry and paratroops who were trained for anti-tank operations. These forces were primarily used to contain the Syrians with orders not to initiate combat against them.
The largest concentration was in the Bekaa Valley where the 1st Armoured Division consisting of the 58th Mechanised and the 76th and 91st Armoured Brigades. The 62nd Independent Armored Brigade and ten commando battalions were also assigned to the division. Syria deployed around 400 tanks in the Bekaa Valley. 19 Surface to Air missile batteries, including SA6's, were also deployed in the Bekaa Valley.
In Beirut and the Shouf Mountains were the 85th Infantry Brigade, the PLA, As-Sa'iqa and 20 commando battalions. Syria deployed around 200 tanks in this area. Their primary mission was to protect the Beirut-Damascus Highway, which was Syria's primary supply line in the region.
Lebanese Army – By 1982 the Lebanese Army had largely disintegrated and what was left was a Christian-staffed force of about 10,000 men in five brigades (the 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th) plus some smaller independent units. The Lebanese Army was officially neutral and followed the orders of the Lebanese government, but provided tacit and active support to the Lebanese Front. The Army had lost much of its heavy equipment due to defections of its units.
Lebanese Navy: The mostly Christian manned force operated several patrol boats and was loyal to the government. It played little or no part on the War.
Lebanese Air Force: This largely Christian force operated a force of jet fighters, helicopters and other aircraft and it too played little part on the war.
Internal Security Forces: the national police and security force of Lebanon.
Palestinian Liberation Organization forces continued to grow in Lebanon with full-time military personnel numbering around 15,000 fedayeen, although only 6,000 of these, including 4,500 regulars, were deployed in the south. They were armed with 80 aging tanks, many of which were no longer mobile, and 100 to 200 pieces of artillery. According to Israeli analysts Schiff and Ya'ari (1984), the PLO more than quadrupled its artillery from 80 cannons and rocket launchers in July 1981 to 250 in June 1982. The same authors also refer to Israeli intelligence estimates of the number of PLO fighters in southern Lebanon of 6,000 as "divided into three concentrations; about 1,500 south of the Litani River in the so-called Iron Triangle (between the villages of Kana, Dir Amas, and Juya), Tyre, and its surrounding refugee camps; another 2,500 of the Kastel Brigade in three districts between the Litani and a line running from Sidon to northeast of Nabatiye; and a third large concentration of about 1,500–2,000 men of the Karameh Brigade in the east, on the slopes of Mount Hermon".
PLO primary forces consisted of three conventional brigades each of 2,000 to 2,500 men and seven artillery battalions. Each brigade was composed of contingents of the many PLO factions. The Yarmouk Brigade was stationed along the coastal strip while the Kastel Brigade was in the south. The Karameh Brigade was stationed on the eastern slopes of Mount Hermon in the area called Fatahland.
The PLO had around 15,000 – 18,000 fighters (of whom about 5,000–6,000 were alleged to be foreign mercenaries (or volunteers) from such countries as Libya, Iraq, India, Sri Lanka, Chad and Mozambique) and they were disposed as follows:
- 6,000 in the Beirut, Ba'abda and Damour area,
- 1,500 in Sidon,
- 1,000 between Sidon and Tyre,
- 1,500 in Tyre,
- 1,000 deployed from Nabatiyeh to Beaufort Castle,
- 2,000 in Fatahland, and
- around 1,000 in the UNIFIL Zone.
Heavy weapons consisted of about 60 T-34, T-54 and T-55 tanks, most of which were dug in as pillboxes, up to 250 130mm and 155 mm artillery, many BM21 Katyusha multiple rocket launchers plus heavy mortars.
Non-PLO Palestinian groups
Palestinian groups in the radical Rejectionist Front fought on the Muslim-leftist side. The alliance did nothing to improve cooperation between member factions, and internecine bloodshed continued. The following were members of the Rejectionist Front:
- Arab Liberation Front (ALF) Pro-Iraqi
- Abu Nidal's Fatah-Revolutionary Council
- Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP)
- Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) Includes the Popular Liberation Forces (Arabic, quwwat at-tahrir ash-sha'biyya), better known as the Yarmouk Brigade, a PLA Commando force.
- Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF)
- Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)
- Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC)
Some, such as As-Sa'iqa, the Arab Liberation Front, the Palestine Liberation Army and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) were essentially mercenary armies for foreign governments (Syria, Iraq, and Libya, respectively).
- South Lebanon Army, founded in 1979 the SLA fought against both the PLO and Hezbollah. The SLA was composed of Christians, Shias and Druze from the areas that it controlled but the officers were mostly Christians.
- Guardians of the Cedars, exclusively Maronite with strong anti-Syrian views, 3,000–6,000 uniformed militiamen armed with modern small-arms. They were backed by a mechanized force consisting of a single M50 Super Sherman medium tank, a few M42 Dusters and Chaimite V200 armoured cars backed by gun-trucks (Land-Rovers, Toyota Land Cruisers, GMC and Ford light pick-ups, plus US M35A2 2-1/2 ton cargo trucks) fitted with heavy machine guns (HMGs), recoilless rifles, and a few anti-aircraft autocannons.
- The Lebanese National Resistance Front forces totalled about 30,000 fighting men and women. It was the successor of the Lebanese National Movement.
- The Druze were initially neutral but turned against the LF when the new government attempted to force their way into Druze controlled territory in the Chouf region. The militia of the Druze Progressive Socialist Party consisted of 10,000 to 20,000 men and boys.
- The Al-Mourabitoun (Guardians or Saviours in Arabic) is a secular, non-sectarian movement, its membership has always been overwhelmingly Muslim, being perceived within Lebanon as a predominantly Sunni organization. It's militia (Mouqatin or Fighters) numbered several thousand men and were known for wearing red painted Soviet helmets with Mourabitoun painted on front. The Mourabitoun fought alongside the PLO in the Beirut area until the cease fire after which they acquired much cast-off PLO equipment such as tanks and rocket launchers. They were supported largely by Libya and Syria.
- The Kurdistan Workers' Party at the time had training camps in Lebanon, where they received support from the Syrians and the PLO. During the Israeli invasion all PKK units were ordered to fight the Israeli forces. A total of 11 PKK fighters died in the conflict.
The Christian Lebanese Front, sometimes called the Kufur Front, was a coalition of mainly Christian parties formed in 1976, during the Lebanese Civil War. It was intended to act as a counter force to the Lebanese National Movement (LNM) of Kamal Jumblatt and others. Combined Lebanese Front forces totalled about 30,000 fighting men and women. These forces were mostly Phalangist, though there were some men from Saad Haddad's "Free Lebanon forces" and other smaller right-wing militias, including al-Tanzim.
Muslim forces were Shiite organizations:
- Amal Movement is the militia wing of the Movement of the Disinherited, a Shi'a political movement. Initially neutral. The Shia Amal guerrillas had been ordered by their leaders not to fight and to surrender their weapons if necessary.
- Hezbollah is the other Shiite militia ostensibly formed during the invasion around Beirut and backed by Iran.
- Pasdaran – In July 1982 Iran dispatched an expeditionary force of Revolutionary Guards to Lebanon, ostensibly to fight the Israeli invaders. The approximately 650 Pasdaran established their headquarters in the city of Baalbek in the Syrian-controlled Biqa Valley where they conducted guerrilla training, disbursed military matériel and money, and disseminated propaganda.
- The political fission that characterized Lebanese politics also afflicted the Shia movement, as groups split off from Amal. Husayn al Musawi, a former Amal lieutenant, entered into an alliance with the Revolutionary Guard and established Islamic Amal.
- Other Shia groups included Jundallah (Soldiers of God), the Husayn Suicide Commandos, the Dawah (Call) Party, and the notorious Islamic Jihad Organization, reportedly headed by Imad Mughniyyah.
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL, was created by the United Nations, with the adoption of Security Council Resolution 425 and 426 on 19 March 1978, to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon which Israel had invaded five days prior, restore international peace and security, and help the Government of Lebanon restore its effective authority in the area. The first UNIFIL troops were deployed in the area on 23 March 1978; these troops were reassigned from other UN peacekeeping operations in the area (namely the United Nations Emergency Force and the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Zone). During the 1982 Lebanon War, UN positions were overrun, primarily by the South Lebanon Army forces under Saad Haddad.
Outcome of the war
Accurate numbers of casualties are hard to estimate, due to "[t]he chaos of warfare, the destruction of city neighborhoods and refugee camps, the haste with which bodies were buried in mass graves and the absence of impartial agencies".
Journalist Robert Fisk claims that early Israeli figures for civilian casualties were so low as to be "preposterous", and that afterwards it "issued casualty figures for its own losses but no longer offered figures for the invasion death toll among Lebanese and Palestinians".
Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian casualties
By the end of the first week, 14 June 1982, International Red Cross and Lebanese police figures claimed that 9,583 had died and 16,608 injured. By the end of the second week, up to 14,000 people died and 20,000 were injured, mostly civilians.
In early September 1982, the independent Beirut newspaper An Nahar published an estimate of deaths from hospital and police records covering the period from June 6 to August 31, 1982. It claimed that 17,285 people were killed: 5,515 people, both military and civilian, in the Beirut area; and 2,513 civilians, as well as 9,797 military forces, including PLO and Syrians, outside of the Beirut area. American military analyst Richard Gabriel estimated that between 5,000 and 8,000 civilians died during the war.
The following death estimates were released by Lebanese authorities in December 1982. They do not include the estimated 800–3,500 killed in the Sabra and Shatila massacre. In 1984 the Lebanese government gave a lower revised figure of 1,000 civilians killed during the Israeli invasion.
|In the South||7,571|
|In other areas||4,729|
|Total killed: 19,085|
|Total wounded: 30,302|
|In Beirut: 16%|
|In the South: 77%|
|In Beirut: 84%|
|1/4 under 15 years old|
|1/3 over 50 years old|
|In the South: 23%|
Responses to the figures included:
- Many officials in Beirut, including those of the International Red Cross, claimed that the number of deaths were extremely difficult to estimate correctly.
- Israel claimed that the numbers were too high, and that the number of deaths in the South was 1,331.
- At least one official from a relief organization claimed that in the South about 80% of deaths were civilian and only 20% military.
The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims that between 5 June 1982 and 31 May 1985 1,216 Israeli soldiers were killed.
The security buffer zone and Syrian occupation
In September 1982, the PLO withdrew most of its forces from Lebanon. With U.S. assistance, Israel and Lebanon reached an accord in May 1983, that set the stage to withdraw Israeli forces from Lebanon while letting them patrol a "security zone" together with the Lebanese Army.
The instruments of ratification were never exchanged, however, and in March 1984, under pressure from Syria, Lebanon cancelled the agreement.
In January 1985, Israel started to withdraw most of its troops, leaving a small residual Israeli force and an Israeli-supported militia, the South Lebanon Army in southern Lebanon in a "security zone", which Israel considered a necessary buffer against attacks on its northern territory. The Israeli withdrawal to the security zone ended in June 1985. Israel withdrew fully from Lebanon in 2000.
The political vacuum resulting from the 1985 Israeli withdrawal would eventually lead to the de facto Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Syria would gain much more power over Lebanon than what it enjoyed before 1982, but it would no longer align with the PLO. In the War of the Camps that followed the Israeli withdrawal, Syria fought their former Palestinian allies.
Relocation of PLO
Following Arafat's decision of June 1982, by September 1982, the PLO had withdrawn most of its forces from Lebanon. Syria backed the anti-Arafat PLO forces of Abu Musa in the Beka valley from May 1983. When Arafat castigated the Syrian government for blocking PLO supplies in June 1983, the Syrian government declared Arafat a persona non-grata on 24 June 1983.
With the withdrawal of the PLO leadership from Tripoli in December 1983 there was an Egyptian-PLO rapprochement, this was found to be encouraging by the Reagan administration but was condemned by the Israeli government.
Political results for Israel
In the voting in the Knesset on the war, only Hadash (a radical left-wing party composed mostly of Arabs) opposed the war (and even submitted a no-confidence motion against the Israeli government). Hadash Knesset member Meir Vilner said in the Knesset plenary session that: "The government is leading Israel to an abyss. It is doing something that in the course of time might lead to crying for generations." In response, they were condemned, and calls were heard, among others from the editor of Yediot Ahronoth, to prosecute them for treason. Left-wing Knesset members, including Shulamit Aloni and Yossi Sarid, were absent from the plenary for the vote. Even the Labour faction voted in support. By mid January 1983 Rabin was saying that the Israeli attempt to impose a peace agreement on Lebanon by the use of force was a "mistake" based upon an "illusion".
Heavy Israeli casualties, alleged disinformation of Israeli government leaders and the Israeli public by Israeli military, as well as political advocates of the campaign and lack of clear goals led to increasing disquiet among Israelis. This culminated in a large protest rally in Tel Aviv, organized by the Peace Now movement, following the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre. Organizers claimed 400,000 people participated in the rally, and it became known as the "400,000 rally". Other estimates put the figure much lower, maybe reaching 100,000 Israelis but including thousands of reserve soldiers back from Lebanon.
Political outcome for Lebanon
The Israeli-Maronite alliance dissolved, and Sharon's goal of installing a pro-Israel Christian government in Beirut was not accomplished. 850,000 Christians would emigrate during the Civil War out of Lebanon, most of them permanently.
The withdrawal of the IDF from central Lebanon in the summer of 1983, was followed by one of the bloodiest phases of the Lebanese war, where the Christian Militia (the Lebanese Forces) was left alone to defend the "Mountain" area which comprised the Aley and Chouf districts against a coalition of Druze PSP, PLO remnants, Syrian Army, Lebanese Communist, and Syrian Social National Party. This heavily impacted the civilian population from both sides (more than 5,000 killed from both sides). The Mountain War ended after the Christian forces and civilians withdrew to the town of Deir el Kamar where they were besieged for 3 months before all hostilities ceased and they were transported to East Beirut.
The invasion led to the switching of sides of Amal Movement, which used to fight against the PLO prior to the invasion. The invasion is also popularly held to be the major catalyst for the creation of the Iranian and Syrian supported Hezbollah organization, which by 1991 was the sole armed militia in Lebanon not supported by Israel and by 2000 had completely replaced the vanquished PLO in Southern Lebanon.
Cold War perspective
According to Abraham Rabinovich, the complete dominance of U.S. and Israeli technology and tactics over those of the Eastern Bloc was to have been a factor that hastened the demise of the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union. However, this was not the first confrontation in which Soviet weaponry had been outmatched by American weaponry. Many of the Cold War conflicts the Americans and their allies had superior technology. Nonetheless, the gap between the First World and Second World weaponry was more apparent in the 1980s and weighed more heavily on Second World leaders.
Long term consequences
In 2000, when Ehud Barak was Israeli Prime Minister, Israel finally withdrew from the security zone to behind the Blue Line. Lebanon and Hezbollah continue to claim a small area called Shebaa Farms as Lebanese territory, but Israel insists that it is captured Syrian territory with the same status as the Golan Heights. The United Nations has not determined the final status of Shebaa Farms but has determined that Israel has complied with UNSC resolution 425. The UN Secretary-General had concluded that, as of 16 June 2000, Israel had withdrawn its forces from Lebanon in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425 of 1978, bringing closure to the 1982 invasion as far as the UN was concerned.
Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon led to pressure on the Syrians to withdraw their occupation forces and this pressure intensified after the assassination of the popular Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri. On 26 April 2005 the Syrian occupation forces withdrew from Lebanon.
- From the standpoint of the Israeli Military, the invasion removed PLO presence from Southern Lebanon and destroying its infrastructure, as well as increasing deterrence on other Arab anti-Israeli militant organizations. The Syrian military was weakened by combat losses, especially in the air.
- The failure of the larger Israeli objectives of resolving the conflict in Lebanon with a peace treaty.
- The Lebanese Council for Development and Reconstruction estimated the cost of the damage from the invasion at 7,622,774,000 Lebanese pounds, equivalent to US$2 billion at the time.
- Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden said in a videotape, released on the eve of the 2004 U.S. presidential elections, that he was inspired to attack the buildings of the United States by the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, in which towers and buildings in Beirut were destroyed in the siege of the capital.
Investigation into violation of International Law
On 16 December 1982, the United Nations General Assembly condemned the Sabra and Shatila massacre and declared it to be an act of genocide. The voting record on section D of Resolution 37/123, which "resolves that the massacre was an act of genocide", was: yes: 123; no: 0; abstentions: 22; non-voting: 12. The abstentions were: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany (Federal Republic), Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, United Kingdom, U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Côte d'Ivoire, Papua New Guinea, Barbados and Dominican Republic. Some delegates disputed the claim that the massacre constituted genocide.
In 1982, an international commission investigated into reported violations of International Law by Israel during its invasion of the Lebanon. Chairman was Seán MacBride, the other members were Richard Falk, Kader Asmal, Brian Bercusson, Géraud de la Pradelle, and Stefan Wild. The commission's report concluded that "the government of Israel has committed acts of aggression contrary to international law", that the government of Israel had no valid reasons under international law for its invasion of Lebanon, and that the Israeli authorities or forces were directly or indirectly responsible for the massacres and killings, which have been reported to have been carried out by Lebanese militiamen in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in the Beirut area between 16 and 18 September.
Following a four-month investigation, on 8 February 1983, the Kahan Commission submitted its report, which was released to the public by spokesman Bezalel Gordon simultaneously in Hebrew and English. It concluded that direct responsibility rested with the Gemayel Phalangists led by Fadi Frem, and that no Israelis were deemed directly responsible, although Israel was held to be indirectly responsible:
- The decision on the entry of the Phalangists into the refugee camps was taken without consideration of the danger – which the makers and executors of the decision were obligated to foresee as probable – the Phalangists would commit massacres and pogroms against the inhabitants of the camps, and without an examination of the means for preventing this danger.
- Similarly, it is clear from the course of events that when the reports began to arrive about the actions of the Phalangists in the camps, no proper heed was taken of these reports, the correct conclusions were not drawn from them, and no energetic and immediate action were taken to restrain the Phalangists and put a stop to their actions.
Several films were staged, based on the events of the 1982 war:
- 2009 film
- Waltz with Bashir
- 1978 South Lebanon conflict
- Multinational Force in Lebanon
- 2006 Lebanon War
- List of modern conflicts in the Middle East
- Golan Heights Law
This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/.
- Gabriel, Richard , A, Operation Peace for Galilee, The Israeli-PLO War in Lebanon, New York: Hill & Wang. 1984, p. 167, 168, ISBN 0-8090-7454-0 Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "Gabriel" defined multiple times with different content
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