South Lebanon Army

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Israeli-supported militia in southern Lebanon.

Renegade Lebanese army Major Saʿd Haddad founded the Free Lebanon Militia (FLM) to combat the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in southern Lebanon during Lebanon's civil war (19751990) and made common cause with Israel when it invaded Lebanon in March 1978 to drive PLO guerrillas away from the Israeli border. Israel withdrew from Lebanon in June 1978 and turned over to Haddad a buffer zone three to six miles (5 to 10 km) wide along the Lebanese side of the border. Israel funded and trained Haddad's renamed South Lebanon Army (SLA) in return for SLA efforts to prevent the return of elements hostile to Israel to the area.

Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon to rout the PLO deepened the relationship between the Israel Defense Force (IDF) and the SLA. Headquartered in Marjayoun, Lebanon, the SLA's twenty-five hundred fighters were Maronite Christians (40%) and Shiʿa Muslims (60%), although Christians predominated among the officers. Haddad died in January 1984 and General Antoine Lahad replaced him. In 1985 Israel withdrew from Lebanon, leaving behind a small force to advise the SLA. The rise of Hizbullah, a Shiʿite militia created to liberate southern Lebanon from Israel and its SLA client, provoked SLA-Hizbullah battles and drew IDF troops back into Lebanon. By the late 1990s IDF fatalities in Lebanon led to an Israeli grass-roots campaign for a unilateral withdrawal. When the IDF withdrew from Lebanon suddenly on 24 March 2000, the SLA disintegrated, and its members either surrendered to Hizbullah or to the Lebanese army, returned quietly to their villages, or sought emergency refuge, along with their families, in Israel. Military courts in Beirut sentenced hundreds of SLA members to prison terms ranging from months to years for collaborating with the enemy, while SLA commanders tried in absentia received death sentences. SLA families struggled to adjust to Israeli society; most returned to Lebanon or moved to other countries within several years of the SLA's collapse.

see also haddad, saʿd; lahad, antoine.


Hamizrachi, Beate. The Emergence of the South Lebanon Security Belt: Major Saʿad Haddad and the Ties with Israel, 19751978. New York: Praeger, 1988.

Schiff, Zeʾev, and Yaʾari, Ehud. Israel's Lebanon War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984.

elizabeth thompson
updated by laura zittrain eisenberg

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South Lebanon Army

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South Lebanon Army