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The 1982 Lebanon War ( , Milhemet Levanon), ( , Al-Ijtīāḥ, "the invasion"), called Operation Peace for Galilee ( ) by Israel, and later also known colloquially in Israel as the First Lebanon War, began on 6 June 1982, when the Israel Defense Forces invaded southern Lebanon. The Government of Israel decided to launch the military operation after the assassination attempt against Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Shlomo Argov, by the Abu Nidal Organization, a mercenary organization opposed to the PLO.

After attacking the PLO, as well as Syrianmarker, leftist and Muslim Lebanesemarker forces, Israel occupied southern Lebanon and eventually surrounded the PLO and elements of the Syrianmarker army. Surrounded in West Beirutmarker and subjected to heavy bombardment, they negotiated passage from Lebanon with the aid of Special Envoy Philip Habib and the protection of international peacekeepers.


With the establishment of Israel and the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, Lebanon became home to more than 110,000 Palestinian refugees after fleeing their homes in the former Palestine. After its founding in 1964 and the radicalization among Palestinians, which followed the Six Day War, the PLO became a powerful force, then centered 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 Israelmarker and the PLO starting from 1968; this had previously peaked during Operation Litani in 1978. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was created after the incursion, following the adoption of 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.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.

Precursors to war

On 10 July 1981, violence erupted in South Lebanon and Northern Israelmarker. Israel renewed its air strikes and after five days, the PLO began shelling northern Israel. On July 17, 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. The strategy of the PLO, years later copied by Hezbollah, consisted of widely dispersing artillery and ammunition stockpiles, which largely neutralized the far more powerful Israeli aircraft and artillery. As a result, thousands of Israeli citizens who resided near the Lebanese border headed south. On 24 July 1981, United States envoy Philip Habib brokered a ceasefire badly needed by both parties. Between July 1981 and June 1982, the Lebanese-Israeli border "enjoyed a state of calm unprecedented since 1968."

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. On 21 April 1982, after a landmine killed an Israeli officer while he was visiting a South Lebanese Army gun emplacement in Taibemarker, Lebanon, the Israeli Air Force attacked the Palestinian-controlled coastal town of Damourmarker, killing 23 people. On 9 May, Israeli aircraft again attacked targets in Lebanon. Later that same day, UNIFIL observed the firing of rockets from Palestinian positions in the Tyremarker region into northern Israel, but none of the projectiles hit an Israeli settlement--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 (Chomsky, 1999, p. 195; Cobban, 1984, p. 112). There were more than 240 PLO attacks against Israeli targets, and Israel considered them violations of the ceasefire.Herzog & Gazit (2005), pp. 350–351The 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.

International reaction

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 Nigermarker, 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". 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. 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.

Palestinian and Lebanese forces

A Lebanese national army unit of 1,350 was under the operational control of the UNIFIL commander, HQ located at Arzun with sub-units attached to UNIFIL Battalions. The Palestinian forces continued to grow in Lebanon with full-time military personnel numbering around 15,000, although only 6,000 of these, including 4,500 regulars, were deployed in the south. They were armed with 60 aging tanks, many of which were no longer mobile, and 100 to 200 pieces of artillery (Sayigh, 1999, p. 524). According to Israeli analysts Schiff and Ya'ari (1984), the PLO more than tripled 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), Tyremarker, 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".

Israeli Casus Belli

One of the reasons for the invasion, according to Sheldon L. Richman was "the discrediting and destruction of the PLO, which, by June 1982, had observed its cease-fire with Israel for about a year and had been pursuing a diplomatic strategy." Although the PLO had observed the ceasefire, Israel 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. On 3 April 1982 Israeli diplomat Yacov Bar-Simantov was assassinated by the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Fraction; this incident was blamed on the PLO by Israel. On 3 June 1982 an anti-Arafat splinter group which was not a part of the PLO and was headed by Abu Nidal paralyzed Israeli diplomat Shlomo Argov in an assassination attempt in London. Prime Minister Menachem Begin had been informed by Israeli intelligence that the PLO was not involved in the attack on Argov, but withheld this information from his Cabinet. Sami Moubayed would write in 2008 that Rafael Eitan, who was then the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, responded to the aforementioned information by saying: "Abu Nidal, Abu Shmidal. I don't know, we need to screw the PLO." In late 1981, Begin compared Arafat to Adolf Hitler, telling a high-ranking Israeli general at the Waldorf-Astoriamarker, "I want to see Arafat in his Bunker!".


An aerial view of the stadium used as an ammunition supply site for the PLO after Israeli airstrikes in 1982.


On 6 June 1982, Israeli forces under direction of Defense Minister Ariel Sharon invaded southern Lebanon in "Operation Peace of the Galilee".

Course of the fighting

Israeli troops in South Lebanon, June, 1982
Israel's publicly stated objective was to push PLO forces back to the north. Israeli forces pushed in from Southern Lebanon. The first battle was at Beaufort Castle, where 6 Israeli soldiers and at least 4 PLO fighters were killed. Israeli troops took control of the castle. Israeli forces took the town of Jezzinemarker, which was held by Syrian tanks and Infantry. One Syrian armored battalion was destroyed, with Israel losing 7 dead and 8 tanks. Operation Mole Cricket 19 was launched, with the Israeli air force winning a dramatic victory over Syrian aircraft, shooting down 29 Syrian planes and also destroying 17 Syrian anti-aircraft missile batteries, with no losses of its own. Israeli forces fought their way into the Syrian-held town of Sultan Yacoub, but became surrounded. They managed to escape, losing 30 dead. Sultan Yacoub was one of the few objectives the IDF decisively failed to take in the war. The Israelis soon reached Beirut but were determined to drive the PLO from southern Lebanon. Tyremarker and Sidonmarker (major cities in South Lebanon, still within the limit) were heavily damaged, and the Lebanese capital Beirut was shelled for ten weeks, killing both PLO members and civilians.

The Israeli Air Force shot down 86 Syrian aircraft, with no air combat losses of its own.This was the largest combat of the jet age with 150 fighters from both sides. It also performed ground attacks, notably destroying the majority of Syrian anti-aircraft batteries stationed in Lebanon. AH-1 Cobra helicopter gunships were used widely against Syrian armor and fortifications. The IAF Cobras destroyed dozens of Syrian armored fighting vehicles, including some of the modern Soviet T-72 main battle tanks.

An agreement was reached later in 1982, and American, French, and Italian peacekeepers, known as the Multinational Force in Lebanon, sent more than 14,000 PLO combatants out of the country in August and September. About 6,500 Fatah fighters relocated from Beirut to Jordan, Syria, Iraqmarker, Sudanmarker, both Northmarker 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 bombingmarker.

On 14 September 1982, Bachir Gemayel, the newly appointed President of Lebanon, was assassinated by Habib Shartouni of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. Israeli forces occupied West Beirut the next day, in violation of the Habib agreement. 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 slaughtered 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 bears "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 Defense 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 Defense Minister, however, he remained in Begin's cabinet as a Minister without portfolio. He later became Prime Minister of Israel.

Outcome of the war


It is estimated that around 17,825 Lebanese were killed during the war, with differing estimates of the proportion of civilians killed. Beirut newspaper An Nahar estimated that 5,515 people, both military and civilian, were killed in the Beirut area alone during the conflict, while 9,797 Syrian soldiers, PLO fighters, and other forces aligned with the PLO, as well as 2,513 civilians were killed outside of the Beirut area. Approximately 675 Israeli soldiers were killed.

The security buffer zone

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 canceled 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.

Political results

In the voting in the Knessetmarker on the war, only Hadash 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".

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.

But heavy Israeli casualties, alleged disinformation of Israeli government leaders and the Israeli public by Israeli military and 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 Avivmarker, 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.

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 Farmsmarker as Lebanese territory, but Israel insists that it is captured Syrian territory with the same status as the Golan Heightsmarker. 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.


The 1982 Lebanon War had a number of lasting consequences:

  • From the standpoint of the Israeli Military, the invasion was a limited success, removing 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.
  • Increased erosion of the consensus against criticizing the military in Israeli public opinion and disillusionment with its leadership, a process which is commonly held to be rooted in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War.
  • The invasion that also targeted many Shiite Lebanese, has brought about the switching of sides of Amal Movement, which used to fight against the PLO prior to the invasion.
  • The invasion is 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.
  • 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.
  • The withdrawal of the IDF back to South Lebanon in the summer of 1983, led to 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, Palestinian PLO, Syrian Army, Lebanese Communist, and Syrian Social National Party. The result was catastrophic on the civilian population from both sides, especially on the Christian population (more than 5,000 killed from both sides). The 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.

See also


  1. Chomsky, Noam. Fateful Triangle p.196.
  2. Kissinger, Henry (1999). Years of Renewal, Phoenix Press. ISBN 1-84212-042-5. p. 1022. "I think with sadness of these civilized men who in a turbulent part of the world had fashioned a democratic society based on genuine mutual respect of religion. Their achievement did not survive. The passions sweeping the area were too powerful to be contained by subtle constitutional arrangements. As it had attempted in Jordan, the Palestinian movement wrecked the delicate balance of Lebanon's stability. Before the peace process could run its course, Lebanon was torn apart. Over its prostrate body of writing all the factions and forces of the Middle East still chase their eternal dreams and act out their perennial nightmares."
  3. Shlaim, Avi (2007). Lion of Jordan; The life of King Hussein in War and Peace. Allen Lane. p. 412. ISBN 978-0-713-99777-4
  4. Schiff & Yaari (1984), pp. 35–36
  5. Morris, Benny. Righteous Victims. ISBN 0-679-74475-4, p.507
  6. Morris, Benny. Righteous Victims, ISBN 0-679-74475-4
  7. Reagan, Ronald (Brinkley, Douglas, (ed.) (2007). The Reagan Diaries. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-06-0876005 p. 66: Saturday, January 30
  8. Fisk, Robert (2001). Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War. Oxford University Press, ISBN 0192801309, and ISBN 9780192801302 p. 194.
  9. Friedman, Thomas L. "Israeli Jets Raid P.L.O. in Lebanon; Shelling follows". The New York Times, 10 May 1982, p. 1.
  10. UN Doc S/PV.2292, 17 July 1981.
  11. Sharon's war crimes in Lebanon: the record
  12. Reagan, Ronald (Brinkley, Douglas (ed.)) (2007). The Reagan Diaries. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-06-0876005 pp. 87–90.
  13. UN Doc S/15194 of 10 June 1982 Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon
  14. pp. 83–84.
  15. pp. 134–135.
  16. Richman, Sheldon L. "Ancient History: U.S. Conduct in the Middle East Since World War II and the Folly of Intervention", Cato Institute.
  17. Ball, George W. Error and Betrayal in Lebanon, p. 35.
  18. UN Doc S/14951 Letter Dated 3 April 1982 From The Charge D 'Affaires (Aryeh Levin) A.I. of the Permanent Mission of Israel to The United Nations Addressed to the President of the Security Council.
  19. Gilbert, 1998, p. 503.
  20. Moubayed, Sami (11 March 2008). "Iran shifts focus fully on Iraq", Asia Times (Hong Kong).
  21. Schiff & Yaari (1984), p. 39.
  22. Lebanon 1982: The Imbalance Of Political Ends And Military Means
  23. RealClearPolitics - Articles - Israel's Lost Moment
  24. BBC ON THIS DAY | 30 | 1982: PLO leader forced from Beirut
  25. "Flashback: Sabra and Shatila massacres", BBC News Online (London), 24 January 2002.
  26. "What happened at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 1982?", Palestine Facts.
  27. Ross, Michael (2006). The Volunteer.
  28. American Jewish Committee Archives, American Jewish Yearbook 1985. p. 260.
  29. American Jewish Committee Archives American Jewish Yearbook 1985. p. 126.
  30. American Jewish Committee Archives American Jewish Yearbook 1985. p. 130.
  31. Warschawski, Michel (April-May 2006). "Inside the Anti-Occupation Camp", The Link (Americans for Middle East Understanding).
  32. "Security Council Endorses Secretary-General's Conclusion On Israeli Withdrawal From Lebanon as of 16 June", UN Press release SC/6878, 18 June 2000.
  33. E/CN.4/2000/22/Add.1 of 3 March 2000
  34. Arak, Joel (29 October 2004). "Osama Bin Laden Warns America: Terror Leader Admits For First Time That He Ordered 9/11 Attacks", CBS News.


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  • Cobban, H. (1984). The Palestinian Liberation Organization: People, Power and Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-27216-5
  • Fisk, Robert (2001) Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War By Oxford University Press, ISBN 0192801309, and ISBN 9780192801302
  • Gilbert, M. (1998). Israel: A History. London, Black Swan. ISBN 0-688-12362-7
  • Harkabi, Y. (1989). Israel's Fateful Hour. New York, NY: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-091613-3
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  • Sayigh, Y. (1999). Armed Struggle and the Search for State: The Palestinian National Movement, 1949-1993. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-829643-6
  • Schiff, Z. & Ya'ari, E. (1984). Israel's Lebanon War. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-47991-1
  • Ed. Sela, Avraham"Arab-Israeli Conflict." The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East. . New York: Continuum, 2002. ISBN 0826414133 and ISBN 9780826414137

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