Lebanon History

Warring Factions Within Lebanon and Regional Conflicts Make Peace Impossible

 

Clan warfare between various religious groups in Lebanon goes back centuries. The combatants include Maronite Christians, who, since independence, have dominated the government; Sunni Muslims, who have prospered in business and shared political power; the Druze, who have a faith incorporating aspects of Islam and Gnosticism; and Shiite Muslims.

A new—and bloodier—Lebanese civil war that broke out in 1975 resulted in the addition of still another ingredient in the brew, the Syrians. In the fighting between Lebanese factions, 40,000 Lebanese were estimated to have been killed and 100,000 wounded between March 1975 and Nov. 1976. At that point, Syrian troops intervened at the request of the Lebanese and brought large-scale fighting to a halt. In 1977, the civil war again flared and continued until 1990, decimating the country.

Palestinian guerrillas staging raids on Israel from Lebanese territory drew punitive Israeli raids on Lebanon and two large scale Israeli invasions, in 1978 and again in 1982. In the first invasion, the Israelis entered the country in March 1978 and withdrew that June, after the UN Security Council created a 6,000-man peacekeeping force for the area called UNIFIL. As the UN departed, the Israelis turned their strongholds over to a Christian militia that they had organized, instead of to the UN force.