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Biqa Valley


fertile region of eastern lebanon.

Running parallel to the Mediterranean coast between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountain ranges, the Biqa valley throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries enjoyed close ties to Damascus, whose populace constituted a ready market for its agricultural produce. Nevertheless, in August 1920, French mandatory authorities incorporated the Biqa into the newly created state of Lebanon. Thereafter, it served as the breadbasket for the rapidly expanding port city of Beirut.

After the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, the towns of the Biqa provided strongholds for a number of militant Shiʿite organizations. These included not only Hizbullah and Islamic AMAL, headquartered around Baʿalbak, but also a detachment of Revolutionary Guards seconded from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Neither Syrian troops, which controlled the Beirut-Damascus highway beginning in the summer of 1976, nor Israeli forces, which raided the area by air and land on numerous occasions, succeeded in dislodging the militants, who supported their activities by producing opium and other drugs for export. When the fighting stopped in 1989, Syrian military units maintained their positions in the area, and the local economy retained its wartime links to southern Syria.

see also baʿalbak; hizbullah.

Fred H. Lawson

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