For a relatively small country, Lebanon has seen its fair share of wars and destruction. Lebanese history books are filled with red pages describing the tragedies of the past. Thus, the 1982 Lebanese war is considered one of the most tragic incidents in Lebanon’s past.
It is also considered the Israelis longest and most controversial war. Furthermore, the war is also known for Israelis as Operation Peace for Galilee as well as Lebanon’s first war. As for the Lebanese, they call that war “the Israeli invasion”.
Background on the war
Many factors ignited the war as well as shaped its course. The country was already dealing with a bloody civil war before the invasion while tension between every one of the religious sectors prevailed.
Furthermore, the 1948 Arab-Israeli war has made Lebanon a host for over 110,000 Palestinian refugees. Fleeing from war and destruction surrounding their home, Palestinian refugees sought sanctuary in their neighbor country. Then, the black September conflict caused the Palestinian liberation organization to relocate from Jordan to south Lebanon.
Hence, by 1975, the refugees’ number in Lebanon reached more than 300,000 while PLO power in the country grew. Thus, the PLO created a sort of state within a state in south Lebanon. Moreover, the organization played a great part in the start of the Lebanese civil war.
During 1978, violence between the PLO and Israelis reached its peak. Both sides started to suffer some serious casualties. Therefore, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon was founded as a means to confirm the Israeli withdrawal from the South, restore international peace and security, all while helping in the restoration of the government’s authority in that area.
However, the UNFL failed its task. The un organization kept tabs on the increase in violence taking place in the southern borders. During 1980, the Israeli defense forces increased their incursions across the armistice line and into Lebanon.
Though no PLO attacks were recorded at the time, the Israeli defense forces continued to lay minefields, establish gun posts as well as violate both the Lebanese air-space and territorial waters. Moreover, from August 1981 to May 1982, the UN Chief of Staff of UNTSO confirmed 2096 Israeli violations of the Lebanese airspace as well as 652 violations of Lebanese territorial waters.
A year before the looming war, a cease-fire treaty was established between all the parties. Thus Lebanon got to enjoy a total of 9 months filled with calm and peace. However, Israel was ready at the slightest provocation, to start a war against Lebanon.
Start of the war
On 21 April 1982, an Israeli officer who was visiting the South Lebanese Army gun emplacement was killed by a landmine. Thus, the Israeli Air Force reign destruction on the Palestinian-controlled coastal town of Damour. The attack killed 23 civilians.
On 9 May 1982, Israeli aircraft started attacking the Lebanese territory again. Moreover, the UN observed the launching of military rockets from the Palestinian positions located in the Tyre region and into northern Israel. However, none of the projectiles hit or hurt Israeli towns. Thus, many believe that the gunners were ordered to miss in the first place.
The invasion truly began on 6 June 1982. The Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the launching of three-pronged plans of invasion in southern Lebanon as a part of an operation dubbed “Operation Peace for Galilee”. Almost 60,000 troops and more than 800 tanks crossed the border Israel–Lebanon border in three areas that day. They were also greatly supported via aircraft, attack helicopters, artillery, along with missile boats.
Israel officially stated that the main goal of the invasion is to push the PLO forces back 40 kilometers to the north of the country. At the time, Israeli armor, paratroopers, as well as naval commandos set sail in amphibious landing ships from Ashdod. Thus, they choose the Lebanese coast north of Sidon as their destination.
Furthermore, intending to destroy the three PLO camps in the Tyre region, the westernmost Israeli force advanced on the coastal lines. As for the center, two divisions were set to advance from both north and south of the high ground to take over the road junction located in the Nabatieh. Moreover, an elite reconnaissance battalion was ordered to take the PLO stronghold in Beaufort Castle.
On the other hand, the largest force of the three was set to advance to the Bekaa valley as an attempt to prevent any kinds of Syrian reinforcements.
The aftermath of the long war
Due to the extremely chaotic state of the country, Lebanese weren’t able to give the exact number of casualties that took place during the 7-year war. However, it is believed that almost 50,000 Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians were killed because of it. Twice that number is the figures of the injured people. Most of the people who suffered these tragedies were mere civilians.
On the other hand, Israel reports stated the death of 330 Israeli soldiers as well as the injury of 1,000 others.
Moreover, Lebanon was left in the utmost form of ruins. Schools, hospitals, and infrastructure suffered greatly during the past 7 years. Most buildings were destroyed and many people were left homeless. Furthermore, a huge chunk of the population scrambled under the poverty line. In brief, the war stole the lives of the living as well as the dead.
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