Arab-Israel War (1982)

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ARAB-ISRAEL WAR (1982)

: On 4 June 1982, in reprisal for the attack against Shlomo Argov, the Israeli ambassador in London, Israeli aviation bombarded a number of Palestinian military bases in Lebanon. The assassination attempt, however, has been widely considered a pretext for invasion, as the attacker belonged to the Abu Nidal group, which opposed the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and PLO members were reportedly on the hit list as well. Israel wished to destroy the infrastructure and leadership of the PLO and to install in Lebanon a government led by the Phalange Party (predominantly Maronite Christian), which had allied itself with Israel. On 6 June the general staff of the Israel Defense Force (IDF), headed by General Raphael Eitan and over-seen by Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, received the green light from Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin to unleash the "Peace in Galilee" Operation. The invasion of Lebanon, the fifth major Israeli-Arab war, aimed at the definitive neutralization of the Palestinian military bases that had been established there. During this period, Lebanon was in the throes of a civil war, in which Palestinians and Syrians played an active role, while Israel was backing the Phalange.

After brushing aside the "blue helmets" (the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL), the IDF neutralized a part of the Syrian air force that had intervened. On 11 June a Syrian-Israeli cease-fire was signed. Two days later, Israeli forces linked up with the Lebanese Christian Phalangist militia. The IDF began a siege of West Beirut, where the Palestinians, supported by the forces of the Lebanese National Movement, were dug in. The pro-Iranian Guardians of the Revolution took up positions in the Baquaa Valley to battle with the Israeli troops. On 3 July nearly 100,000 Israelis demonstrated in Jerusalem for peace. On 11 July the Soviet Union proposed a peace plan for Lebanon. On 25 July, in a document passed to U.S. congressman Paul McCloskey, Yasir Arafat, the head of the PLO, affirmed that he was ready to accept all UN resolutions concerning the Palestine question. On 7 August, U.S. mediator Philip Habib announced the conclusion of an accord allowing the militiamen of the PLO to leave Beirut under the protection of an international contingent.

On 23 August, Bashir Jumayyil, the leader of the Phalange and head of Christian forces, was elected president of Lebanon. Six days later, in the framework of the evacuation of the Palestinians from Beirut, Israel lifted its siege of the Lebanese capital. On 30 August, under the protection of a French-Italian force, Yasir Arafat and his partisans left Beirut for Tunis. By 1 September about 14,420 PLO fighters and officials had left West Beirut, and about 3,000 Syrian troops were withdrawn. The same day, U.S. president Ronald Reagan proposed a peace plan. On 9 September, in the course of an Arab League summit in Fes, the Arab states proposed a plan to settle the Israeli-Arab conflict (the Fes Plan).

On 14 September, President Jumayyil was assassinated. The IDF entered Beirut once again, in violation of the truce agreement, claiming it was needed to prevent disorder. From 16 to 18 September, the IDF, under Sharon and Eitan, approved the entry of Phalange forces into the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. While Israeli soldiers looked on, the Lebanese Christian militia massacred Palestinian refugees; estimates put the numbers between 800 and 1,500 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, mostly women, children, and older men. At Tel Aviv, 400,000 people demonstrated against this carnage and against the Israeli presence in Lebanon. The United States decided to cut off assistance for the construction of the Israeli bomber, Lavi. On 29 September the IDF withdrew from West Beirut, falling back to the south of Lebanon, being replaced in the Lebanese capital by an international military force. On 8 February 1983 the Israeli Kahan Commission, charged with inquiring into the Sabra and Shatila massacres, found that Israeli officials were indirectly responsible for the atrocities. An international commission chaired by Sean MacBride charged that Israel was directly responsible because the camps were under its jurisdiction as an occupying power and because the IDF had facilitated an ally's activities in the camps. Despite the findings of both commissions, no one was prosecuted. Defense Minister Sharon resigned, to be replaced by Moshe Arens, but remained in the cabinet.

On 17 May, the Israelis and Lebanese signed a peace treaty, rejected by Syria. On 23 October in Beirut, two attacks against the buildings where French and U.S. military were housed caused, respectively, 58 and 241 deaths. On 2 November, Yasir Arafat and his last followers fell back on Tripoli, in the north of Lebanon. On 20 December, the head of the PLO and his partisans left Lebanon definitively, to go to Tunisia. On 7 March 1984, under Syrian pressure, the Israeli-Lebanese accord of 17 May of the preceding year was abrogated by Lebanese president Amin Jumayyil. On 4 April, at the behest of Israel, Antoine Lahad, a Maronite and former general of the Lebanese army, took command of the South Lebanon Army (SLA), charged with security in the south of Lebanon.

On 13 September, Labor Party leader Shimon Peres became prime minister of Israel, and Yitzhak Rabin was named defense minister. On 15 January 1985 the Israeli National Unity government announced a plan for a staged withdrawal of IDF troops from South Lebanon, with the exception of a six-mile strip along the Lebanese-Israeli frontier. Called a "security zone," this Lebanese territory was placed under the military command of the SLA of General Lahad, charged with countering the antiIsraeli actions of the Lebanese Hizbullah; nearly 1,200 Israeli soldiers were assigned to accompany the SLA. Sixteen years later, on 1 April 1998, the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu published a communiqué proposing a negotiated military withdrawal from Lebanon, based on UN Security Council Resolution 425. Finally, under the government of Ehud Barak, the Israeli army left Lebanon on 24 May 2000.

SEE ALSO Arafat, Yasir; Barak, Ehud; Israel Defense Force; Jumayyil, Amin; Jumayyil, Bashir; Lahad, Antoine; Palestine Liberation Organization; Phalange; Resolution 425; Sabra and Shatila; Sharon, Ariel; South Lebanon Army.

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