Hobeika, Elie (1956–2002)

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HOBEIKA, ELIE (1956–2002)

Lebanese Maronite politician, born in the Kesrouan, Lebanon. After studying business, Elie Hobeika entered a career in banking. In 1976, when the civil war broke out, he joined the Lebanese Forces, the militia of the Maronite Phalange. Four years later, after attracting notice for his intelligence and organizational abilities, he was entrusted by Bashir Jumayyil, leader of the Phalange, with the direction the Lebanese Forces' intelligence services. In 1983, at the time of the inquest into the Sabra and Shatila massacres, he was named as one of those responsible for this operation, which had been carried out by the Christian militia against the Palestinians. On 11 May 1985, backed by Samir Geagea, he was called upon to head the executive committee of the Lebanese Forces. On 28 December, to end the war between the militias, he concluded an accord with the leaders of AMAL and the Progressive Socialist Party, which made his ties to Damascus apparent and led to discontent among the principal leaders of the Christian community. Under pressure from the latter, on 15 January 1986 he resigned his command of the Lebanese Forces and was replaced by Geagea. On the following 28 January, Hobeika declared his support for the ex-president Sulayman Franjiyya, who was demanding the resignation of President Jumayyil.

On 27 September, in a militia called Movement of 9 May, his partisans tried and failed to take control of a portion Beirut's Christian suburbs. On 30 December 1990 he became minister of state in charge of refugees in the national unity government led by Omar Karamé. In February 1991 he founded a small party, Al-Waad, and was elected a deputy. On 30 October 1992 he joined the cabinet of Rafiq Hariri. In December 1998, after Emile Lahoud became president and Hariri refused to form a new cabinet, he resigned his minister's post. Although he planned to run for the presidency, Hobeika was defeated in the legislative elections of September 2000. His part in the Sabra and Shatila massacres caught up with him and he was forced to withdraw from politics. He was assassinated in a car-bombing in Beirut. A Lebanese group opposing Syria's continued grip on the country claimed responsibility, calling Hobeika a traitor for his allegiance to Damascus, but its claim was never confirmed. Speculation also centered on Syria, which may have objected to Hobeika's known cooperation with the CIA, and on Israel, since on the day before his assassination Hobeika had agreed to testify in a war crimes case brought against Ariel Sharon in Belgium over the Sabra and Shatila massaces.

SEE ALSO AMAL;Franjiyya, Sulayman;Geagea, Samir;Hariri, Rafiq Bahaʾuddin al-;Jumayyil, Bashir;Lebanese Forces;Phalange;Sabra and Shatila;Sharon, Ariel.