Jumayyil, Bashir (1947–)

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JUMAYYIL, BASHIR (1947–)

Lebanese political figure, born on 10 November 1947 in Beirut, Bashir Jumayyil was the son of Pierre Jumayyil, founder of the Phalange (Kataʾib), and the younger brother of Amin Jumayyil. A lawyer by training, he worked for a law firm in Washington, D.C., in the early 1970s and was recruited by the CIA.

He launched his political career in 1972, becoming the head of the Phalange for the Ashrafiah sector. His brother Amin, who had just been elected deputy, yielded his place to Bashir as the leader of the party. In 1974 Bashir became the head of the Phalange militias. When the civil war broke out in Lebanon, in 1975, he became totally involved in the fighting. On 13 July 1976, he became commander-in-chief of the military council of the Phalange. A few days later he became head of the Lebanese Forces (LF), the militia of the Lebanese Front, an alliance of several right-wing Christian parties, dominated by the Phalange. Under his guidance, and with substantial military and financial assistance from Israel and from the CIA, the LF became the largest Maronite paramilitary force in Lebanon.

Bashir Jumayyil wanted to be president of Lebanon, and worked to eliminate potential rivals. In June 1978 he had a Phalangist commando attack the home of Tony Franjiyya, son of former president Sulayman Franjiyya, killing him and his family. On 23 February 1980 Bashir escaped an assassination attempt in the course of which eight people died, including his daughter. In the same year his Phalangist forces engaged in a series of battles with the Tigers, the militia of the National Liberal Party, led by Dany Chamoun, culminating in the "Day of the Long Knives," 7 July 1980, in which the Tigers were effectively wiped out. Chamoun was the son of former president Camille Chamoun, who was the political head of the Lebanese Front. In June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon, partly to go after the Palestine Liberation Organizatin (PLO), which was headquartered there, and partly to help support Bashir Jumayyil, a client through whom they hoped to impose control over Palestinian and Muslim forces. The PLO was defeated, and in August and September, after an American-sponsored truce, the PLO leadership and about 14,000 fighters were evacuated from Beirut. On 23 August 1982, parliament elected him president of Lebanon. On 14 September he was assassinated when the Phalange headquarters was bombed. The PLO was blamed, although the real assassins were Syrian nationalists. This led the IDF to return to Beirut to assist the LF in controlling the situation, as well as letting the LF into the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, where they perpetrated a horrifying massacre. On 21 September, Amin Jumayyil was elected president in his brother's place.

SEE ALSO Franjiyya, Sulayman; Jamayyil, Amin; Lebanese Forces; Lebanese Front; Phalange; Sabra and Shatila.

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