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Timeline of the Lebanese Civil War, 1975-1990


US marines barracks beirut

The four-story US Marine barracks headquarters in Beirut after it was blown up in a suicide bomb attack on Oct. 23, 1983, that killed 241 Marines. At the same time, 58 French paratroopers were killed by a suicide bomber across town.

USMC Photo by Sgt. Robert E. Kline

April 13, 1975: Gunmen attempt to assassinate Maronite Christian Phalangist leader Pierre Gemayel as he’s leaving church that Sunday. In retaliation, Phalangist gunmen ambush a busload of Palestinians, most of them civilians, killing 27 passengers. Week-long clashes between Palestinian-Muslim forces and Phalangists follow, marking the beginning of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war.

June 1976: 30,000 Syrian troops enter Lebanon, ostensibly to restore peace. Syria’s intervention stops vast military gains against Christians by Palestinian-Muslim forces. The invasion is, in fact, Syria’s attempt to claim Lebanon, which it never recognized when Lebanon won independence from France in 1943.

October 1976: Egyptian, Saudi and other Arab troops in small numbers join the Syrian force as a result of a peace summit brokered in Cairo. The so-called Arab Deterrent Force would be short-lived.

March 11, 1978: Palestinian commandos attack an Israeli kibbutz between Haifa and Tel Aviv, then hijack a bus. Israeli forces respond. By the time the battle was over, 37 Israelis and nine Palestinians are killed.

March 14, 1978: Some 25,000 Israeli soldiers crossed the Lebanese border in Operation Litani, named for the Litani River that crosses South Lebanon, not 20 miles from the Israeli border. The invasion is designed to wipe out the Palestine Liberation Organization’s structure in South Lebanon. The operation fails.

March 19, 1978: The United Nations Security Council adopts Resolution 425, sponsored by the United States, calling on Israel to withdraw from South Lebanon and on the UN to establish a 4,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in South Lebanon. The force is termed the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. Its original mandate was for six months. The force is still in Lebanon today.

June 13, 1978: Israel withdraws, mostly, from occupied territory, handing over authority to the breakaway Lebanese Army force of Maj. Saad Haddad, which expands its operations in South Lebanon, operating as an Israeli ally.

July 1, 1978: Syria turns its guns on Lebanon’s Christians, pounding Christian areas of Lebanon in the worst fighting in two years.

September 1978: US President Jimmy Carter brokers the Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt, the first Arab-Israeli peace. Palestinians in Lebanon vow to escalate their attacks on Israel.

June 6, 1982: Israel invades Lebanon again. Gen. Ariel Sharon leads the attack. The two-month drive leads the Israeli army to the southern suburbs of Beirut. The Red Cross estimates the invasion costs the lives of some 18,000 people, mostly civilian Lebanese.

August 24, 1982: A multinational force of U.S. Marines, French paratroopers and Italian soldiers lands in Beirut to assist in the evacuation of the Palestine Liberation organization.

August 30, 1982: After intense mediation led by the United States, Yaser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization, which had run a state-within-a-state in West Beirut and South Lebanon, evacuate Lebanon. Some 6,000 PLO fighters go mostly to Tunisia, where they are again dispersed. Most end up in the West Bank and Gaza.

September 10, 1982: The Multinational force completes its withdrawal from Beirut.

Sept. 14, 1982: The Israeli-backed Christian Phalangist leader and Lebanese President-Elect Bashir Gemayel is assassinated at his headquarters in East Beirut.

Sept. 15, 1982: Israeli troops invade West Beirut, the first time an Israeli force enters an Arab capital.

Sept. 15-16, 1982: Under the supervision of Israeli forces, Christian militiamen are bused into the two Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, ostensibly to “mop up” remaining Palestinian fighters. Between 2,000 and 3,000 Palestinian civilians are massacred.

September 23, 1982: Amin Gemayel, brother of Bashir, takes office as Lebanon’s president.

September 24, 1982: The U.S.-French-Italian Multinational Force returns to Lebanon in a show of force and support for the Gemayel’s government. At first, French and American soldiers play a neutral role. But they gradually turn into defenders of the Gemayel regime against Druze and Shiites in central and South Lebanon.

April 18, 1983: The American Embassy in Beirut is attacked by suicide bomb, killing 63. By then the United States is actively engaged in Lebanon’s civil war on the side of the Gemayel government.

May 17, 1983: Lebanon and Israel sign a U.S.-brokered peace agreement that calls for the withdrawal of Israeli troops contingent on the withdrawal of Syrian troops from north and eastern Lebanon. Syria opposes the agreement, which was never ratified by the Lebanese parliament, was cancelled in 1987.

October 23, 1983: U.S. Marines barracks near Beirut International Airport, on the south side of the city, are attacked by a suicide bomber in a truck, killing 241 Marines. Moments later, French paratroopers’ barracks are attacked by a suicide bomber, killing 58 French soldiers.

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